As with most other aspects of citrus production in Belize, now that HLB is in the industry, there are new things that need to be considered with regard to seeds. There is evidence that HLB bacteria may be transmitted through seeds. Other graft transmissible diseases, such as exocotis and CTV, are not transmitted through seed and so there has been no need to test seeds source trees for the presence of these diseases. Citrus psorosis virus, on the other hand, is suspected of being transmitted through seed (but is not transmitted by insects) and this is why, in the CREI lab, tests for the presence of psorosis have been conducted on potential seed source trees before they are certified.
With regard to HLB - the scientific evidence, so far, suggests that the bacteria that are associated with HLB may be transmitted through seed in many citrus species, but at a low rate. Although, the HLB bacteria have been found to be present in seed tissues the resulting seedlings have not expressed severe HLB symptoms. Also, in these experiments, symptom expression has not been expressed consistently and has even found to disappear once the plants were not stressed. Results of the investigations into HLB transmission through seed have varied greatly depending on the experimental procedures used.
So, what does all this mean for Belize? With the current information on the risks of HLB transmission through seeds, until more research data is obtained, we should not use seeds for plant production from trees that are or that are suspected of being infected with HLB. The authorities in California and Texas (US States that do not currently have HLB) have banned the importation on citrus seeds from Florida and Belize and other places where HLB has been found. Many in Florida are currently obtaining their citrus seeds from California.
For those in Belize who intend to produce citrus nursery plants - they would need to obtain their seeds from an HLB-free source. For now, this would mean ordering the seeds from California (there is likely to be a very high demand from Florida and from other States). CREI can work with BAHA to obtain an seed import permit for seed importation. In the past CREI has imported seeds from Willits and Newcomb in California www.wncitrus.com. If nursery owners wish to use such seeds from California, please contact CREI well in advance - by pooling orders together we would be able to get a discount for larger quantities of seeds and of course we will pass such savings onto those placing the orders.
We cannot emphasize this enough - only bring in seeds from a recognized source - don't risk bringing in yet more diseases into Belize. It is illegal to import seeds into Belize without a permit from the Belize Agricultural Health Authority!