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Citrus canker has spread to Santa Rosa

Santa Rosa County has its first confirmed case of citrus canker. Citrus canker is a highly contagious disease that affects citrus trees like limes, oranges and lemons. It's a major problem in South and Central Florida, where there is a large citrus industry. But now it's popping up here in the Florida panhandle

Spots on leaves with a yellow halo, a clear indication your citrus tree may have citrus canker.  This disease spreads quickly and is extremely difficult to treat. Citrus canker is a bacterial disease that only affects citrus. The disease causes fruit to drop early, and eventually, the tree won't produce any fruit at all. The first case in the Panhandle  was spotted in neighborhood in Gulf Breeze. The homeowner, who did want to give us his name, says it's become a nuisance for his grapefruit trees.

"I notice my bloom this year did not take. Last year, I had five brushels of grapefruit. This year I had maybe 10 grapefruit," said the homeowner.

    While walking through his yard with Mary Derrick,  the residential horticulture agent, they noticed spots are also popping up on his lemon trees.

"We're very concerned," said Derrick.

    The disease spreads through wind, rain, and human contact.
    It's so contagious that we had to be sprayed with anti-bacterial to avoid spreading it.
    Derrick  says they don't know how the trees got infected, but  it's something they want to control. The citrus industry is looking at expanding their satsuma industry here in the Panhandle.

"We'd like to find out where the citrus canker is right now," added Derrick.

    The best way to get rid of trees infected is to burn them, but that's not always an option, especially in residential areas.
    Derrick is working with the county to try and figure out how to safely remove the trees.
    The homeowner is hoping to get rid of his infected trees and plant new ones soon.

"I love grapefruit. I'm disappointed I won't be able to have it here again," he said.

If you suspect your tree has citrus canker, don't touch it or move the tree. Instead, call the help line at 1-888-397-1517.