Spain: HLB raises concerns at start of citrus harvest campaign

An HLB (citrus greening) plague has put the Spanish citrus sector on guard due to the serious consequences it could have, considering that the harvest season is only just starting in Andalusia. The alarm was sounded at the horticultural fair Fruit Attraction 2015 by the company Citrosol.

HLB is a bacterial disease transmitted by an insect, the Diaphorina citri, which has already been detected in the Canary Islands and Galicia and which has already caused the disappearance of much of the citrus acreage in some Asian countries. The CEO of Citrosol, Benito Orihuel, warned of its presence in the Iberian peninsula during his talk within the framework of the technical sessions of Fruit Forum, at the recent Fruit Attraction 2015, in Madrid.

"It is one of the greatest challenges for the citrus industry today," confirmed the scientific director of the Valencian company; a specialist in post-harvest treatments.

The disease causes bud deformation and changes in the fruit colouring; it reduces the production and eventually kills the tree.

HLB has been detected in all Asian regions where citrus is grown, except in Japan. Outside Asia, it has also been detected in Brazil, Florida, Texas and recently in California and in various parts of Mexico. In some Latin American countries it is being tackled with steam treatments.

So far, no strategy has been implemented at national level to prevent its spread. Benito Orihuel emphasised that even though the insect and disease "require more humid climates than the Mediterranean, their possible adaptation to it in the future could be a threat of unimaginable proportions."

Orihuel's talk was made during a forum organised jointly by the Polytechnic University of Cartagena and the National Research Institute for Agricultural and Food Technology, INIA. In this context, the company representative described the tools Citrosol is using to extend the shelf life of fruit in intercontinental citrus shipments while maintaining the highest standards of food safety.

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