Sunday, October 28, 2007

Hit Me with Some Psyllid-Free Brix

Cooler weather means those oranges on your tree are building up Brix.

"What, da kine Legos?" you ask.

Actually, it's a fancy term for the measurement of sugar content in fruit. The higher the Brix, the sweeter the fruit. Brix is a big deal for orange juice farmers, who have to grade their products using Brix measurements. Got juice? If you're lucky enough to have an orange tree in your backyard, right about now you're probably getting some pretty good Brix thrown at your tastebuds.

However, there is something new to Hawai'i that could possibly affect our sweet local oranges. Last year the Hawai'i Department of Agriculture found a new alien insect, the Asian Citrus Psyllid, Diaphornia citri Kuwayama. The insect feeds on the young leaves and stems of citrus, resulting stunting and twisting of the shoots and severe curling of the leaves.

In addition, the Asian Citrus Psyllid has been known to infect citrus with something nasty called citrus greening disease, CGD. Citrus greening disease has wiped out citrus groves in Asia, Africa and Brazil. Citrus with CGD develops mottling and yellowing of leaves and deformed, green, bitter-tasting fruit. Goodbye to Brix, and worse, there is no known cure for this disease -- infected trees have to be destroyed. Uck. The good news is that citrus greening disease hasn't been found in Hawaii yet.

And so far, the Asian Citrus Psyllid has been discovered only in East Hawaii Island and Maui. They're small brown insects that tend to like mock orange but go for other citrus too.

Read more about the Asian Citrus Psyllid here.

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