For many years now, CREI has provided growers and members of the public with a reliable source of certified citrus plants. However, since the discovery of HLB-greening in Belize, in May 2009, CGA Committee of Management took the difficult decision, to have CREI destroy its' nursery plants and temporarily halt plant production.
This became necessary because the greatest incidence of HLB-greening in Belize was found to be in the easterly and southern areas of the Stann Creek District, close to where the CREI nursery was located. There is a significant risk that any un-screened nurseries in the area would be contaminated with HLB. Additional concerns were raised when testing by the CREI laboratory revealed that two plants in the CREI nursery were in-fact infected with HLB. The challenge - with HLB in nurseries - is that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to detect for the presence of HLB in young plants. The level of the HLB-bacteria in the plant can be so low that it is not possible to detect it, even with sophisticated laboratory equipment. It is when the bacteria have multiplied in the plant - which may take many months or even a year or so -that lab tests for HLB will reveal the presence of HLB and the plants are likely to show symptoms. Because of these factors then, when HLB is found to be in a citrus nursery - but only found to be in a few plants - it is possible that many of the plants in the same nursery would also be infected with HLB although lab tests are negative for the disease. The principle being that once HLB-greening is present within an area any un-screened nursery should considered to be potentially infected with the disease.
In an effort to maintain high standards, for the reasons described above and because CREI did not want to risk distributing potentially HLB-infected plants to customers, CREI made the decision to destroy its nursery and re-start plant production with a new screened-nursery - that would produce certified HLB-free plants.
The only way of producing citrus plants free of HLB-greening, once the disease is present in the country, is for the production to take place under psyllid-proof screen - the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) being the insect that transmits the disease. According to the current laws of Belize, from 1st February 2010, all citrus plants in Belize will need to be produced - from the seed stage - under BAHA approved screen structures. CREI will be establishing a new screened citrus nursery early in 2010 and will have plants for sale for the May/June planting season in 2011. It is unlikely that certified plants will be available to the industry before that date.
Although there will probably be frustration amongst growers in not having plants available in the industry for some time - they should consider that it is better to wait a year or so to ensure that the plants that they are planting are disease-free rather than risk wasting their investment by purchasing plants that might be infected with HLB disease and that could be dead within a couple of years. Reports from Florida and Brazil are that an HLB-infected nursery plants are unlikely to survive long enough in the field to produce fruit and serves as a source for spreading HLB-greening to the rest of the grove.
Now that HLB-greening is present in Belize - it is possible that all nursery plants in the country are infected with the disease - therefore CREI does not recommend any grower to plant citrus until plants are available from screened HLB-free nurseries.
To enquire about the ordering citrus plants of any of the varieties listed in our germplasm / variety collection please contact us.