Monday 16 October 2017

Citrus Tristeza Virus; What's being done and how can we help?

Recently we have been asked to provide our supporters more information about the current situation related to citrus trees and the Citrus Tristeza Virus (CTV). A video published by Le Iene is being shared on social media platforms showing the devastation this virus is causing in Sicily. 

Rightly so, Maltese farmers and fruit tree enthusiasts are worried about this threatening situation. Cases of CTV have already been detected locally, and owners of such trees have been asked to burn the trees to avoid any further contamination. So far the virus is contained but the question remains; what is being done to prevent further damage?

We have thus contacted the Plant Health Directorate about our concerns and they were glad to provide us with more information. 

Orange fruits - Photo by Jeanette Borg

What is being done to protect Maltese citrus trees?

The Plant Health Directorate is aware of the situation in Sicily and in this regard issued national measures in Government Notice 762, which can be accessed by clicking here. 

The Government notice lays down the following conditions for all movement of plants for planting and propagation material of all genera and species and hybrids of Citrus L., Fortunella Swingle and Poncirus Raf. (commonly classified as citrus) to the Maltese territory for personal or commercial use;

Movement of all citrus plant for planting and propagation material from all EU Member States should be notified to the Plant Protection Directorate at least 48 hours in advance of the entry of such plant material into Malta.

If citrus plants (other than fruit and seeds) belonging to the category “CAC” (Conformitas Agraria Communitatis) is moved from another EU Member State (excluding Sicily) to Malta, a copy of the official statement referred to in Schedule IV Part A Section II point 10 of S.L. 433.03 and that states that the plants originate from areas known to be free from CTV (citrus tristeza virus), Spiroplasma citri, Phoma tracheiphila and Trioza erytreae should be submitted. This statement shall accompany such material and it should be forwarded with the notification form.

In addition citrus plants (other than fruit and seeds) moved from Sicily to Malta should belong to the category “certified” which is indicated by a blue label in order to officially ensure that the material is free from CTV (citrus tristeza virus), Spiroplasma citri, Phoma tracheiphila and Trioza erytreae in accordance with Schedule IV Part A Section II point 10 of S.L. 433.03; and

Citrus plants for planting and propagation material should be accompanied by a Plant Passport;

Citrus plants for planting and propagation material which do not comply with points (a) to (d) above shall be withheld and may be destroyed by the Plant Protection Directorate in accordance with the Plant Quarantine Act (Cap. 433).

Contingency Plan for CTV

It is also important noting that the Directorate has set a contingency plan for CTV which is implemented whenever there is an interception or finding. 

Conservation Study

The Directorate is also conducting a conservation study of local citrus and has already a stock of virus free plants which were produced through in vitro techniques. A certification program is being discussed in order to make available certified local citrus trees on the market.

How can we help in the prevention against this deadly virus?

If any of you notice any citrus trees for sale without any labels (blue or orange) please contact us on as soon as possible and we shall alert the responsible persons at the Plant Health Directorate.

Such trees might probably have been introduced on the market without the proper documentation.