A plant pathogen is an organism that causes a disease on a plant. Although relatives of some plant pathogens are human or animal pathogens, such as Norwalk virus transmitted through contaminated food and water, most plant pathogens only harm plants. However, some plant pathogens can make immune-depressed people sick.
Organisms that cause plant diseases reduce our ability to produce food and support the economy. All plants, from citrus and grains to ornamental shrubs, are susceptible to plant diseases. Plant diseases cause billions of dollars worth of direct and indirect losses every year, thwart agriculture production and has the potential to hamper tourism. Responding to emerging plant pathogens requires preparation and planned scientific-based procedures to lessen the impact on farmers and the economy.
Huanglongbing, more commonly known as citrus greening, is a disease that was first detected in the United States in August 2005, in Miami-Dade County, Fla. This disease has seriously impacted citrus production all over the globe. Citrus greening is a major threat to the U.S. citrus industry. Other than tree removal, there is no effective way to control the disease once the plant has been infected.
Tourists and commercial plant imports from around the world have the potential to unwittingly carry pathogens to Florida from other states and countries. Hurricanes add to the problem as wind-borne pathogens can appear or reappear from the Caribbean and Latin America.
Information and methods are needed now to protect crops and natural resources; to avoid economic loss; to inform Florida growers, residents and visitors on how to prevent the spread of plant disease and to train the next generation of scientists who will keep plant pathogens at bay.