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Revista mexicana de ciencias agrícolas

versão impressa ISSN 2007-0934

Rev. Mex. Cienc. Agríc vol.8 no.4 Texcoco Jun./Jul. 2017 

Investigation notes

Perception of the problem of Huanglongbing by relevant agents in urban areas

Lizbeth Hernández-Landa1 

José López-Collado1  § 

Martha Elena Nava-Tablada2 

Carlos Gilberto García-García3 

Francisco Osorio-Acosta1 

1Colegio de Postgraduados-Campus Veracruz. Carretera Federal Veracruz-Xalapa, km 88.5. Tepetates, Municipio de Manlio F. Altamirano, Veracruz, México. CP. 91690. Tel. 01(229) 2010770, ext. 64344, 64327. (;

2Colegio de Veracruz. Carrillo Puerto No. 26. Zona Centro, Xalapa, Veracruz. México. CP. 91000. Tel. 01(228) 8415100, ext. 115. (

3Colegio de Postgraduados-Campus Córdoba. Carretera Federal Córdoba-Veracruz, km 348. Congregación Manuel León, Córdoba, Veracruz, Veracruz, México. A P. 143. CP. 94500. Tel. 01 (271) 7166000, ext. 64806. (


In Mexico, there are pests causing economic losses in citrus, one of them is Diaphorina citri, vector of the disease called Huanglongbing (HLB). Previous studies have measured different aspects in citrus producers, but the perception of relevant actors in urban areas, such as lemonade owners have not been evaluated. This study was carried out in 2013 in the city of Cuitlahuac, Veracruz and aimed to measure the information acquired on HLB from two groups: owners of lemon plants (Murraya paniculata) and executive staff of the citrus packing plants. It was found that a high proportion of managers of the packers are the ones who have more information, regarding the owners of lemon plants, on issues related to the national priority phytosanitary campaign against HLB such as: vector, disease transmission, as well as campaign messages on disease and vector control. Most of the interviewees in both groups were unaware that the lemongrass could be source of HLB inoculum as well as vector hosts. Dispite the diffusion campaigns, there is disinformation in relation to the problematic, particularly with respect to lemongrasss. The most outstanding is that the inhabitants are willing to remove these plants from their gardens or change them for others.

Keywords: Diaphorina citri; Murraya paniculata; agro-urban pests; phytosanitary campaign; social agents; yellow dragon


En México, existen plagas causantes de pérdidas económicas en cítricos, una de ellas es Diaphorina citri, vector de la enfermedad denominada Huanglongbing (HLB). Previos trabajos han medido diferentes aspectos en los productores citrícolas, pero la percepción de actores relevantes en zonas urbanas, como los propietarios de limonarias no se han evaluado. Este trabajo se realizó en 2013 en la ciudad de Cuitláhuac, Veracruz y tuvo como objetivo medir la información adquirida sobre HLB de dos grupos: propietarios de plantas de limonaria (Murraya paniculata) y personal ejecutivo de las empacadoras de cítricos. Se encontró que una alta proporción de administradores de las empacadoras son los que poseen mayor información, con respecto a los propietarios de plantas de limonaria, sobre temas relacionados con la campaña fitosanitaria de prioridad nacional contra el HLB como son: el vector, transmisión de la enfermedad, así como mensajes de la campaña sobre el control de la enfermedad y el vector. La mayoría de los entrevistados en ambos grupos ignoraban que las plantas de limonaria pueden ser fuente de inóculo del HLB así como hospedantes del vector. A pesar de las campañas de difusión, existe desinformación en relación a la problemática, particularmente respecto a limonaria. Lo más sobresaliente es que los habitantes están dispuestos a remover dichas plantas de sus jardines o cambiarlas por otras.

Palabras clave: Diaphorina citri; Murraya paniculata; agentes sociales; campaña fitosanitaria; dragón amarillo; plagas agro-urbanas

One of the regulated pests that causes economic losses in citrus plantations in Mexico is Diaphorina citri, vector of the bacterium Candidatus Liberibacter spp. causing Huanglongbing disease (HLB), a deadly disease for members of the rutaceous family, including citrus fruits (Manjunath et al., 2008). In Mexico, 14% of the world’s citrus production is processed and the HLB puts the citrus chain at risk. In particular, the state of Veracruz ranks first in citrus production and can be significantly affected (DOF, 2010). In October 2011, the presence of HLB in commercial orchards (SENASICA, 2011) was detected in this state, although it is currently eradicated. The lemongrass (Murraya paniculata), is a shrub rutaceous for ornamental use (Hall, 2008), it is considered a key element in the problem of HLB, since it is host of both the vector and the causal agent and in addition, it is considered a reservoir of the populations of D. citri in urban areas near citrus-producing areas (Damsteegt et al., 2010; Hernández-Landa, et al., 2012).

In Mexico, in 2008, the national priority phytosanitary campaign against HLB was initiated, aiming to detect it in a timely manner and, if required, carrying out actions for its management, control and eradication. Against the detection of the disease, implemented control measures have been put into operation according to the regulatory instrument published in 2010 (DOF, 2010). Currently, strategic surveillance activities are carried out with the objective of knowing the situation of those areas where HLB is not yet registered, which are executed through NOM-EM-047-FITO-2009 (DOF, 2009). It also promotes the establishment of certified nurseries, the elimination of lemongrass plants and the participation of producers in the establishment of regional control areas as an alternative management of the disease.

The investment made for strategic surveillance actions, as well as control and confinement activities of the disease in the country by 2015 amount more than 164 million pesos and in the state of Veracruz were allocated 17.5 million for the same year (SENASICA, 2015). One of the key aspects in the successful implementation of agricultural pest control campaigns is the dissemination of relevant information, the awareness of the social actors involved and the adoption of techniques aimed at pest control. The dissemination of information is important for the empowerment of the people involved in the problem; however, the level of reception and execution of campaign actions is not always known. The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) conducted an evaluation of the Campaign against HLB (Salcedo-Baca et al., 2012), which measured the familiarization and involvement of some key actors in the campaign.

As results it was found that the performance of the campaign against HLB has been good; however, it is important to note that the campaign only explores 27% of the citrus cultivated area of the country and does not cover the urban areas where M. paniculata is found. In this paper, producers, nurseries, packers and processors, as well as operators and administrators of the campaign in the states, pointed out the minimal participation and involvement of the leaders and representatives of the citrus product system in the activities of the campaign in the states under control and without detection. It also highlights the null contribution in the awareness to the members about the implications of disease contagion to orchards or areas that do not have it yet; The limited disseminated information and the lack of exigency to the authorities in order to avoid the mobilization of citrus as ornamental, among others (Salcedo-Baca et al., 2010).

However, the perception of this problem of other involved social agents, among them the owners of plants of M. paniculata in urban zones and the administrators of the packers has not been evaluated. In this paper, it was considered important to know the attitude of the inhabitants of the urban areas near the citrus production zones, about the strategies of the Federal Government regarding the control of the vector, its host plants and their willingness to substitute the lemongrass by other non-host plants of the vector or the HLB; as well as to know the economic and cultural value that the lemongrass plants represent for them.


The research was carried out in Cuitlahuac, located in the central zone of the state of Veracruz, Mexico, at the geographical coordinates 18° 48’ 42” north latitude and 96° 43’ 22” west longitude, with an altitude of 378 m (INEGI, 2012). It has 13 651 inhabitants; has warm subhumid climate with summer rains and warm humid with abundant summer rains. The average annual temperature ranges between 24 and 26 °C (SEDESOL, 2013). Cuitlahuac is located in an important citrus area, main reason for which it was selected to carry out this study.

In 2013, questionnaires were applied to two groups of key social actors. The first one was for people who had a lemongrass plant on their property or on the sidewalk, while the second was applied to managers of the packers who were in operation, located both in the town and on the outskirts. The questions that were asked to the interviewees were oriented to know the following aspects: sex, age and schooling of the interviewees; knowledge about the disease and the vector, as well as information on lemongrass plants and knowledge about the federal government’s disease control campaign.

The analysis of the obtained information was performed with R v3.0.2 (R Core Team, 2015) by means of calculation of descriptive statistics and a test of Z was made to know if there were differences in the answers to a group of questions that were applied both to the inhabitants of the locality and to people in charge of the packers.


A total of 79 questionnaires were applied to the owners of lemongrass plants; of the interviewees, 71% were women and 29% were men. Most people (39%) were between 50 and 60 years old, 38% had primary education and the rest with higher school grades (Figure 1). When asked if they planted the lemon plants, 57% said no. According to the information obtained, most of the plants are older than 10 years and most of the people ignore the origin of the plants, they infer that the seeds have spread on their own. 95% of the interviewees use the limonaria for ornamental purposes, either by the aroma or the flowers.

Figure 1 Sociodemographic attributes of interviewees. Percentage of men, age and average schooling. 

In terms of management, prunings and irrigation are applied in most cases (79%) and only 6% of those interviewed performed some type of pest control. Regarding the knowledge level about HLB, only 9% said they knew the disease; regarding if they knew that lemongrass houses the HLB, 95% answered no, as well as a high percentage (92%) were unaware that lemongrass hosts Diaphorina citri. A high percentage of respondents (90%) did not know or have not seen any government message or campaign about HLB.

On the other hand, 78% of people agree to cut their lemon plant knowing that is a HLB carrier, this decision is taken mainly for the sake of lemon crops (80%). The majority (76%) would like to substitute their lemongrass plant for different types of plants either ornamental, fruit or shade and 71% of respondents are interested in receiving information on HLB in leaflets, information meetings and television.

On the other hand, 22 questionnaires were applied to the people responsible for the lemon balers located in the locality or in the periphery. In this case most of the interviewees were men (64%), young people mostly (around 30 years) and all with higher education to primary education (Figure 1). The position of the interviewees in the packinghouse is generally that of manager or administrator (77%), in very few cases their position was being in charge of quality and safety department (14%).

When asked if they knew Huanglongbing, 77% of the respondents answered yes, they also know or have seen messages or campaigns from the federal government about HLB (73%) and about the transmission of HLB, 50% refer to know how it is transmitted either by the vector or by grafting. Regarding to identify the lemongrass plants, only one interviewee claim to do not know it, whereas the remaining 21 responded that they knew it and, only one person knew its scientific name.

When asked if they were aware that the lemongrass hosts HLB, 59% said no, 77% also replied that they did not know that lemongrass is a host for Diaphorina citri. When asked if they thought it would be convenient to eliminate the lemon plants in the urban area, 67% responded positively. They were also asked if some phytosanitary measures were taken in the packinghouses for the control and management of D. citri. and HLB; based on the responses it was found that 45% of the balers carry out prevention actions such as checking the plant material and cleaning of all work areas.

Finally, when asked if they would like to receive more information about HLB, 95% of those interviewed said yes, mainly on issues related to combat and prevention of the disease, whether through leaflets, triptychs, briefings and TV announcements.

According to the statistical analysis, differences were found between some answers to questions that were asked to the two groups of respondents (Table 1), so it can be affirmed that although the campaign strives to raise public awareness, there is still a lack of diffusion work to do mainly in urban areas, such as the case of Cuitlahuac, where one of the main economic activities is lemon production (SIAP, 2014), and where plantations close to the urban area may be at a high risk, if the lemongrass plants in the city play a role of vector reservoirs. Both groups agree that if they are asked they would remove the lemongrass plants and replace them with another type of ornamental plant (Table 1).

Table 1 Proportion of response of the two groups of respondents and significance of the Z test. 

*= significancia estadística al 0.01.

As noted in the above table, packers managers have a significantly higher level of knowledge on issues related to the HLB campaign and its vector compared to people who own host plants in the urban area. It is important to mention that the vast majority in both groups were unaware that Murraya paniculata could be a source of inoculum and host of insect populations. The positive aspect is that in both groups agree on receiving more information on the subject.


In general, both groups of interviewees have information on issues related to the control campaign of Huanglongbing and Diaphorina citri, but the packers are the ones who are more informed because, due to the nature of their work related to citrus, information about pests and diseases is greater because they can receive campaign staff or training. It was identified that in aspects related to Murraya paniculata, both packers and inhabitants of the urban zone, showed low levels of knowledge, ignoring that this plant can be reservoir of disease, pathogen and vector. It is important to mention that most of the lemongrass plants located in the community are used as ornamental and very few of them were planted, so there is the willingness of the interviewees to eliminate and replace them. A fact to highlight is the age of the interviewees in their homes which are people over 40 years, so it would be important to pay attention to the language that is used when disseminating the information, so that people can understand it and keep it.

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Received: February 2017; Accepted: March 2017

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