- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 21, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry is checking Plaquemines Parish citrus trees for 13 pests and diseases.

Commissioner Mike Strain says two inspectors began door-to-door surveys on Monday to check all commercial and residential property.

The survey will continue through next summer, starting in the south and moving northward toward Belle Chasse.

The main focus will be citrus canker, citrus greening and the insect that carries citrus greening.

The insect and both diseases are known in limited areas of the state. The department wants to learn whether they are in the parish and threaten the $10 million citrus business centered in Plaquemines Parish.

Surveyors will be driving a department vehicle, wearing a department shirt and carrying a department ID badge.

Samples will be taken from any trees where pests or diseases are suspected, Strain said.

If property owners with citrus trees are not at home, a door hanger will notify the owner that the department checked those trees it could get to and may have taken plant samples. The hanger also will ask owners to contact the department to set up an inspection of trees the inspector could not get to.

A department quarantine has, since Nov. 24, 2013, restricted movement of citrus trees, nursery stock and plant parts from parishes where canker, greening, and the Asian citrus psyllid - which carries greening from plant to plant - have been confirmed.

Citrus greening leaves the fruit unsellable and ultimately kills infected plants. Citrus canker causes premature leaf and fruit drop, twig dieback and tree decline. It is spread by wind-driven rain or through the movement of infected plants and can also be moved on contaminated yard equipment, tools and clothing.

Fruit from affected trees does not pose a public health issue and is safe to eat.

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