Virus 'wiping out Bhutan's oranges'
A devastating virus transmitted by a small fly is wiping out orange crops in Bhutan and causing extensive losses to orchard owners and threatening the country's export-earning citrus industry.
Huanglongbing HLB is spread by psyllids, also known as 'jumping plant lice', which suck on the leaves of orange trees, often killing entire trees. The virus has already caused extensive damage in Thailand.
Bhutan's Kuensel Online reports that the country's agriculture ministry issued a circular this month (April) that warns: "Huanglongbing could devastate the whole citrus industry in the country, if appropriate measures are not taken soon."
The ministry also says that neglected and abandoned orchards in which pest control measures are not being taken are another source of virus spread.
Bhutan's national plant protection centre (NPCC) officials say the centre is sending special expert teams to affected areas to control the pest. NPCC has also outlined a plan for measures such as training orchard farmers, quarantining plants, building insect-proof nurseries and replanting with healthy plants in virus-hit areas.