Citrus trees in Mobile and Baldwin counties are facing a threat from a pesky pest.
The disease known as “Citrus Greening” which is causing problems around the world could wreak havoc here in Southern Alabama after being first spotted last year.
“Citrus greening is a death sentence for citrus trees,” said Dr. David Battiste, an Assistant Professor at the University of South Alabama.
A tiny bug called the Asian Citrus Psyllid is causing big problems.
“Florida has lost 70 percent of its citrus trees over the last 10 years to the citrus greening disease,” Battiste said.
So far, it has been spotted in multiple states in the U.S.
“When we found that we had them here, it was either do something or face my father and say ‘why didn’t you do something?’” Battiste said.
The Asian Citrus Psyllid passes on a bacteria to citrus trees that eventually kills them. So far, the Alabama Department of Agriculture has found them in Mobile and Baldwin counties. Battiste’s goal is to track them.
“The disease itself will cause a ripple effect and affect not only food you eat, but whether or not growers can actually produce a tree,” he said.
He cannot do it alone, so he is enlisting high school students from the area to help put up traps in hopes of detecting the pest early.
“I’ve set up a lure in my own backyard on my own Satsuma tree and I’ve been monitoring its progress since January,” said Madeleine Forbes, a high school volunteer.
Forbes is one of the students participating. Over the last several months they monitored more than 60 locations.
“I have a Satsuma tree, so I love Satsumas so it definitely was a big deal about this project that the disease has the potential to eradicate that,” she said.
Their goal is detection before infection because as of now there is no cure.
“It’s not a happy situation, but we can fight by detecting it,” Battiste said.
Battiste said he is not researching a cure, he is just detecting the progress in Alabama.
He said researchers in Florida have spent millions of dollar over the last few years looking into a cure.
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