Huanglongbing (HLB) disease, associated with Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas), is primarily spread via infected citrus nursery trees and by infective Asian citrus psyllid, the insect vector. Recently, the Texas Department of Agriculture initiated regulations requiring commercial and retail citrus nurseries in Texas to transition from traditional open-field to enclosed facilities with insect-resistant screens to mitigate the risk of nurseries serving as sources of CLas. Although several nursery production facilities have adopted this regulation, non-enclosed nurseries persist and pose a significant threat to the citrus industry as potential sources of CLas. A systematic survey for HLB was embarked on in a semi-open nursery facility in South Texas in April 2014. Leaf tissue samples taken from 94 trees representing 5% of the total number of potted trees in the nursery were tested for CLas by quantitative and conventional PCR assays. Of 94 trees tested, 3.2% (3 trees) were positive for CLas by both assays. The presence of CLas in the PCR-positive samples was confirmed by multi-locus sequence analyses. The results represent the first report of HLB in a nursery facility in Texas, and underscore the need for more intensive surveillance for HLB in citrus nursery stock as an integral component of HLB mitigation efforts in Texas.
Accepted for publication 27 August 2014. Published 15 December 2014.