T&T to adopt new practices to treat with Citrus Greening disease

Trinidad and Tobago will have to learn to treat with the Huanglongbing (Citrus Greening) disease as eradication is neither a feasible nor economical option. This was the view of Florida University’s Head of the Citrus Research & Education Centre – Professor Michael Rogers – at the de-briefing session of a Citrus Greening Workshop on Tuesday 7th November, 2017. The Workshop, which was hosted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries (MALF) in collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (USDA-APHIS-IS), took place at the Ministry’s corporate headquarters in Chaguanas.

Professor Rogers opined: “Given the widespread nature of the disease, I am of the view that an eradication strategy for Citrus Greening in Trinidad and Tobago, is not a feasible option as it will necessitate the removal of a significant amount of trees which will put the majority of farmers out of business. What the country needs to consider right now is the adoption of new practices to live with the disease by maintaining tree health. This will require a change in the way citrus is grown and more so, one’s mind-set.” He advised that Trinidad and Tobago place emphasis on the development of a nursery certification programme which will encourage the cultivation and marketing of “disease-free trees”. Professor Rogers noted that while “psyllid populations in Trinidad and Tobago were much lower than Florida” due to the quantity of natural enemies (predators and pathogens) present, effective psyllid control was needed. “Co-ordinated area-wide spraying (with environmentally-friendly insecticides) of psyllids along with biological control measures; re-planting of more disease-tolerant citrus species and the overall management of tree health through the application of fertilizers, can be quite effective,” he added.

He reiterated the dangerous latency period in the plant – usually six (6) months to three (3) years – between the time of infection and the actual appearance of disease symptoms, adding that it was during this period that “psyllids (the insect host) can spread the pathogen from infected asymptomatic trees to healthy trees.”

The de-briefing session wrapped up Professor Rogers’ visit to Trinidad and Tobago which involved his engagement as feature presenter at a Citrus Greening Workshop hosted by the Ministry on Friday 3rd November, 2017 and consultant to the Ministry – during a series of subsequent meetings and site visits – on the management of Citrus Greening in Trinidad and Tobago. To this end, a number of recommendations were yielded for active nationwide pursuit as an effective management strategy going forward.

Senator the Honourable Clarence Rambharat, Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries; Advisor on Agriculture to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. John Alleyne; Acting Chief Technical Officer (MALF), Dr. Simone Titus and USDA-APHIS-IS representative, Mr. Wayne De Chi were among the attendees of the de-briefing session.

Citrus Greening is a bacterial disease which impedes citrus production due to its debilitating impact on both plant and food crop and is regarded as one of the most serious and devastating of all the diseases affecting citrus. Persons are asked to report any suspicious symptoms to MALF’s Research Division at 646-6284 or via email at reportpest@nullgmail.com to help manage the citrus greening disease.

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