Texas citrus industry threatened by contagious tree infection

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A new effort to save citrus trees in Texas began in the Houston area today as an infection is threatening the citrus industry across the state.

The infection is called citrus canker disease. State agriculture inspectors say it causes blister-like lesions on leaves and fruit that start small, but get much bigger as the disease progresses.

Eventually, the leaves and fruit drop prematurely and parts of the tree die.

Friday, state agriculture inspectors began destroying infected trees at a home in Sugar Land.

Citrus canker disease, which officials say isn't harmful to humans who eat the fruit, has infected citrus trees of all kinds at farms and homes in Harris, Fort Bend and Brazoria counties.

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The only way to slow it down is prevention, which is why agriculture inspectors are on a mission to find and destroy the trees that have it.

Citrus production in Texas now tops $100 million, meaning the uncontrolled spread of citrus canker disease would be an economic disaster.

Over the course of 10 years, the state of Florida spent $1.3 billion fighting it by destroying 16 million trees. Unfortunately, the eradication effort didn't work, and Florida is still struggling with the infection.

The state wants homeowners and farmers to inspect their citrus trees and remove and destroy any trees that have citrus cankers.

It won't get rid of the threat, but it may help the industry from withering on the vine in the long run.

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