Climate change could have a drastic effect on South Africa’s citrus crops, as pests, such as the Asian citrus psyllid, which causes the citrus greening disease, emerge in Africa.
Speaking at the Agricultural Research Symposium 2017 in Centurion, on Friday, Agricultural Research Council (ARC) plant health and protection senior manager Dr Ansa van Vuuren said the citrus greening disease was spreading to South Africa.
“We don’t have the Asian version of it in South Africa yet. The Asian greening pest is more aggressive and has a more devastating effect on citrus. We export a lot of citrus, especially to the European Union (EU), so it is very concerning,” she said.
Citrus greening reduces the quantity and quality of citrus fruit and the infected trees eventually become unproductive. An infected tree produces fruit that is not suitable for sale as fresh fruit or for making juice.
“Climate change could draw the pest to South Africa, because an increase in temperature will benefit a more heat-tolerant vector, which is where our concern lies,” she said.