RGV citrus growers preventing fruit fly infestation
WESLACO, Texas (ValleyCentral) – According to Texas A&M University, nearly all of the citrus industry in the state is located in the Rio Grande Valley. 85% of acreage used to grow the state’s citrus is in Hidalgo County. But every year the Mexican Fruit Fly poses a threat to the citrus industry.
“It’s a battle to keep the commercial citrus industry viable and the Mexican Fruit Fly can put us out of business quicker than anything than we are faced with,” said Dale Murden, president of Texas Citrus Mutual.
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While large groves in the valley are regularly treated to prevent fruit fly infestations, Murden tells ValleyCentral the citrus trees people have at home are also at risk.
“We’ve got over a million trees estimated in people’s back yards to grow fruit untreated and what happens is that the fruit fly infects those areas because they are untreated,” Murden said. “They develop a real serious problem for the industry.”
Once the fruit fly infects one fruit, it has the potential to destroy all the crops across the valley.
“The problem we have with yards going untreated is that the fruit accumulates typically on the ground or in the trees it’s just a constant source for survival for the fruit fly,” Murden said. “If we don’t break that cycle, we will have problems going into next harvest season.”
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While the Mexican Fruit Fly has a major impact on the local citrus industry, it’s not just oranges and grapefruit growers are worried about.
“There’s over 80 hosts for the fruit fly so it’s not just the citrus in your backyard,” Murden said. “It’s your mangoes, your avocados, and other things too that cause a great concern for the industry.”
The best way to prevent a fruit fly infestation is to bag and destroy any old fruit that is growing from the trees. By removing the fruit it can save the citrus industry any problems during the next harvest.
“Really the simplest thing for a homeowner to do is to get rid of the fruits that are on the tree, let it grow next year,” Murden said. “If you are sincere about growing fruit in your back yard leaving the old fruit on the tree is not helping you anyway.”