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What to do this week
By Mark Govan, Host “Florida Gardening” on 970WFLA
Help Florida Citrus growers control Citrus Greening. Order your free biological control wasps now!
Citrus Greening is a disease that affects all cultivars of citrus and has become a real problem for both commercial citrus growers and backyard gardeners throughout the state of Florida. This disease is caused by a bacterium called Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus. A little insect called the Asian citrus psyllid transmits this disease by feeding on the leaves of our citrus trees. You can help the State of Florida in controlling this insect by requesting a free vial of parasitic wasps, which prey upon the citrus psyllids. In this article, I will go over the procedure of how to request these wasps and then release them into the environment. Do not be alarmed, these wasps are very minute and will not harm you, so do not be afraid. Follow my instructions below and let’s see if we can serve a small part in helping to save Florida’s Citrus industry.
Ordering the control wasp is easy, and it is free. Just pull up the browser on your computer and either type in the following web address or hold your keyboards control button down and click on the text. http://www.freshfromflorida.com/TRA. This link will bring you to the Tamarixia Release Page of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Tamarixia is the clinical name of the wasp you are ordering. You will need to fill out a small questionnaire, which will ask you for your address and phone number. The state just wants to know where the wasps are being released and how many people are requesting them. There will also be a few questions on how many citrus trees you have on your property and whether or not you grow orange jasmine. Orange jasmine is another plant this particular psyllid is drawn to. The more citrus or orange jasmine plants you have, then the additional likelihood you will need to release these wasps.
Citrus greening symptoms start slowly but can eventually render the tree unproductive. Early signs of citrus greening include “Yellow Leaf”, which are shoots of new growth that turn yellow and leaves which are mottled and not symmetrical. This means that if you fold the leaf at the midrib; both sides will have yellow blotches, which do not match up with each other. Over time, this mottling of the leaves will spread throughout the tree. Leaves will start to drop. As the tree begins to decline, the fruit produced may be misshapen or lopsided. When you cut a fruit in half, one side of the orange may be larger than the other. You may also notice smaller or fewer fruit developing. Severely afflicted trees produce fruit, which may turn yellow at the top and green on the bottom. Plantings of Orange Jasmine or Boxwoods should be discouraged.
There is no control for this disease once your tree is infected. The best chance you have of controlling this pest is through routine spraying of the tree with an insecticide and through the release of this wasp to control the psyllid before it feeds on your trees. Those trees already infected should be treated with foliar applications of citrus minor essential elements and fertilizers every two months to combat the effects of this psyllid and to bypass the trees’ vascular system which is no longer able to distribute nutrients to the branches and leaves. Be vigilant and mark your calendars of when your treatments should be performed. Once your vial of wasps arrives read the attached instructions.
Release the wasps as soon as you receive them as they may die if left in the vial too long. Find a branch in the citrus tree that you can attach the vial to. Twine or rope will work just fine. Once the vial is attached to the tree, gently remove the top of the vial to release the wasps. You have already noticed the wasps are much too small to hurt you so do not worry about getting stung. Once the cap has been removed, the wasps will slowly make their way out of the tube, and they will immediately start searching out their food source, the psyllid. Thank you for helping the state to eradicate this severe problem. Now that you have done your part, go tell your neighbors to order their own vials and help us save the Florida Citrus Crop. Good Luck and remember, without plants, we would not be here!