A U.S. Department of Agriculture regulation puts in place new restrictions on the movement of leaves and other plant materials shipped with citrus from areas with citrus greening disease to packinghouses outside the quarantined area.

The USDA rule updates protocols enacted in 2010 that quarantined Florida and Georgia, and parts of Louisiana and South Carolina. Quarantined areas include Alabama, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and parts of Arizona and California, because of Asian citrus psyllid, which can spread the bacterial pathogen that causes citrus greening, also known as huanglongbing (HLB).

Joel Nelsen, president of Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual, said USDA has been a great partner to the industry in trying to contain citrus greening disease.

“We think the rule is very positive,” he said. “It does put more requirements in place but they are designed to protect the industry,” he said.

Nelsen said the new rules outline to California growers what they can expect if citrus greening spreads to California citrus growing regions. Fruit moving from a quarantined area to a non-quarantined area for packing, must be free of leaves and other plant material before it is packed.

The quarantine does not restrict fruit shipping, as long as the fruit is free of plant material.

Ray Prewett, president of Texas Citrus Mutual, Mission, said fewer than 900 acres of the Rio Grande Valley’s 28,000 citrus acres are quarantined. Prewett said quarantined citrus groves must be treated with pesticides before harvest to control the psyllid population.

“Fruit itself is not a vector, but you have to make sure there are no stems and leaves on that fruit,” he said.

After packing, there are no restrictions on citrus movement, Prewett said.

He said the Texas citrus industry is ramping up surveys and treatment to monitor the potential spread of citrus greening.