Citrus canker feared in Hendry County

Asian citrus canker, lethal to citrus trees but harmless to people and animals, might have struck the state’s largest citrus-growing county for the first time, officials said Monday. Hendry County, just west of Palm Beach County, could compromise a state plan to halt the spread of the disease. The only way to stop the disease is to destroy infected trees. Agriculture officials are expected back in the Hendry County grove to conduct more tests.

Earlier this year, state officials had proposed spending $18 million for uprooting about 54,000 citrus trees and creating a mile-wide buffer zone in Broward County from the Atlantic Ocean to the Everglades. The idea was to keep canker, which already has been found in Miami-Dade and southern Broward Counties, from spreading northward. The general manager of the Gulf Citrus Growers Association (who represents 181 citrus growers) said, “I think they’re going to have to reevaluate the tactic.” The bacteria could have been carried to the grove by grass clippings, leaves, equipment, people or rain from an infected area, a spokesman for the eradication project said.

The University of Florida in Gainesville, U.S. Department of Agriculture and a private Indiana laboratory also are conducting tests to confirm the findings, state officials said.

In the early to mid-1980s, the state’s largest outbreak of canker forced agriculture officials to destroy 20 million citrus trees in nurseries throughout the state.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Excerpts from article in the Palm Beach Post Online, dated 2-9-99

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