Customs and Border Protection agents at George Bush International Airport in Houston discovered invasive fungi in a shipment of flower stems from Guatemala. Photo Courtesy of CPB
June 1 (UPI) -- Customs and Border Protection agents discovered invasive fungi on flower stems that were shipped through the George Bush International Airport in Houston from Guatemala.
"The shipment of Pacaya, which are the edible flowers of date palms, originated in Guatemala and its stems were infected with fungi could devastate crops if introduced," CBP said in a press statement Thursday.
"CBP agriculture specialists obtained samples of the diseased stems during its examination and forwarded specimens to the U.S. Department of Agriculture where specialists determined the disease to be Colletotrichum sp.," CPB continued.
According to CPB the "fungus infects a wide variety of hosts causing plant disease in important crops worldwide."
The CPB warned the importer that their crops had a fungal infection, and they destroyed their remining stock.
"Preventing pests and plant disease from entering and taking hold in our forests, crops and neighborhood gardens starts at the ports of entry around the country by men and women fully focused on agricultural shipments imported to the country," said the CPB's Houston Port Director, Shawn Polley.
Plant diseases have severely impacted U.S. agriculture in the past. Last year, Hurricane Ian resulted in "citrus greening" in 100% of Florida's orange groves, according to Florida Department of Citrus Executive Director Shannon Shepp.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasted an 18% drop in yield for the 2022-2023 season for the nation and a 51% drop for Florida. Orange juice prices have risen as a result and orange juice producers have been forced to turn to imports to meet demand.