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Dec 22, 2009

Deadly citrus Leprosis 20 miles from southern Belize

Story PictureIn other news in the south, Citrus Greening is fast affecting citrus groves and surveillance exercises have detected the bacteria in Hopkins and the Pomona Valley. The situation is so threatening that the movement of plants has been restricted. But there is another potential threat that is looming ahead; that is Citrus Leprosis. Leprosis causes a reduction in citrus yields and eventual death of trees. It is considered a serious viral disease that is present throughout Central America, but always a safe distance from Belize. Stephen Williams, the Director of the Research Unit of the Citrus Growers Association says that they have been informed that Leprosis has been in groves about twenty miles beyond Belize’s southern border.

Stephen Williams, Director, Research Unit, CGA
“Citrus Leprosis virus is a disease that is devastating for citrus and is present throughout the whole of Central America, except Belize. There was a survey done by the International Regional Organization for Agricultural Health and they found that this disease is present in Central America, except Belize. We believe that the reason we don’t have it in Belize is because we are also the only country that has a certification program for citrus nurseries.”

Jose Sanchez
“Yes, but there has been some talk that it’s very close to the country now.”

Stephen Williams
“Yes, exactly. Up until now, we have know that the disease is present on the west coast of Guatemala, which is on the Pacific coast, which is where the majority of the citrus industry is. We got an unofficial report this week that there was a report towards southern border of Belize—twenty miles within that distance—where there was some evidence of the Leprosis virus in trees in thast area. So we will of course be following up on those reports.”

Jose Sanchez
“What are symptoms?”

Stephen Williams
“The symptoms are difficult to described, but basically there are white blemishes on the leaf and also on the fruit; not really white but more pale green.”

Jose Sanchez
“It kills the fruit?”

Stephen Williams
“Yes, what happens is it leads basically to dieback of the tree. It is a virus that is transmitted by a mite. The virus doesn’t move around but kill the branch on a local area where the virus is present and basically what happens is the branch dies back.”

Jose Sanchez
“Is it as dangerous as the citrus greening?”

Stephen Williams
“It’s of concern but it’s not—I think it’s something that can be devastating. It was in Florida up to the sixties and at that time they were saying it almost destroyed the Florida citrus industry. But the advantage is Florida tends to have cold weather. So early in 1962, they have very cold temperatures and that wiped out the disease in Florida.”

Williams says if anyone believes they have seen the appearance of leprosies, they should call the C.G.A.’s research unit or Belize Agricultural Health Authority.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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