Citrus Greening Disease under control in Dominica

The Ministry of Agriculture is putting into effect an integrated pest management system to control the presence of the citrus greening disease.

Citrus greening, also called Huanglongbing or yellow dragon disease, is one of the more serious diseases of citrus.

In May this year the Ministry of Agriculture intercepted the dreadful citrus disease in four locations on the island.

Since then the Ministry has been taking measures to control its spread to other regions on the island.

Head of the plant protection Unit Ryan Anselm says a rapid response plan has been put in place by the Ministry.

“Our plan has been an integrated pest management which involves the elimination of infested plants and control of the vector which is the Asian Citrus Psyllid. The vector transmits the disease in the same way as the mosquito transmits dengue”.

Anselm disclosed that the Ministry of Agriculture is also in the process of producing clean planting material to replace those affected by the citrus greening disease through its citrus certification programme.

“The Government of Dominica has invested in a Citrus Certification Programme and has spent millions of dollars to provide clean planting material to the farmers. That investment has worked for us,we have the capacity to provide clean planting material free of disease to the farmers.”

Meanwhile the Caribbean Agricultural Research & Development Institute (CARDI) has been working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture in developing a strategy to fight the plague. In November two plant experts from The Florida Association for Volunteer Action (FAVACA) were brought into the country by CARDI to assess the magnitude of the disease in Dominica.

CARDI’s local representative Sharon Jones said the plant experts have had an extensive assessment of the citrus greening disease on the island.

“Since they arrived in Dominica they have traversed literally from North, South, East and West trying to assess the establishment of the disease within Dominica”.

Visiting citrus expert working with the Ministry of Agriculture in this venture is Entomologist Dr. Eric Rohrigh. He reported last week during a press conference that the Citrus greening disease has been found only in non commercial areas in Dominica in limited quantities.

“The Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) which is a tiny, mottled-brown insect about the size of an aphid which vectors the disease has been found in a few locations on the island.  We are happy to report that the population of the psyllid on the island is very low. It has not been found in the commercial citrus grove which is also very good news. The psyllid has mostly been found on the south west coast in residential areas, on sweet lime hedges and also in backyard citrus trees”.

The psyllid was first discovered in Dominica in 2006. Dr. Rohrigh says due to the mountainous nature of the island, the psyllid has been contained in certain areas.

“Since the island is mountainous and heavily vegetated, the vegetation serves as a barrier. The psyllid has a much harder time spreading from already identified areas into new areas”.

Dr. Rohrigh has cautioned against the movement of the psyllid to new areas by human activities.

“Your major concern right now would be personnel moving the psyllid into new areas and also moving the citrus disease into new areas. This would mean the movement of infected material or non-infected material that has psyllid populations on it or are on personnel moving it.”

The Entomologist is optimistic that the disease can be eradicated from the island if the proper measures are adopted.

“The psyllid would be very difficult to eradicate, it’s likely that you will never be able to eradicate it from the island but the disease itself can likely be eradicated from the island. If the appropriate actions are taken and everyone work together you have a good chance of eradicating the disease. If you can eliminate all the diseased material then the psyllids have no disease to vector anymore.”

The Citrus greening disease has so far been found in villages such as Marigot, Wesley, Soufriere, Syndicate and Pointe Michel.