Officials Warn Gardeners of Citrus Tree Disease

GULF BREEZE, Fla. (AP) -- A highly contagious disease that could radically damage citrus tree growth has been found in the Florida Panhandle.

Reports say agriculture agencies are asking gardeners in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties to be on the lookout for signs of citrus canker.

Citrus canker is transmitted by a bacterial pathogen and harms healthy citrus trees, causing fruit to drop prematurely.

One verified case of the disease was discovered recently in Tiger Point, but agriculture officials believe there are likely others.

The Santa Rosa County Extension Agency is working to schedule a removal day for infected plants. Signs of the disease include the presence of lesions on the upper and lower surfaces of the leaves or fruit. The lesions are raised and usually surrounded by yellow halos.

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