Citrus pest in Strathmore area
Asian Citrus Psyllid significant threat to area's top crop
A second Asian Citrus Psyllid has been found in California’s citrus belt, and officials are stepping up trapping and monitoring in the Orange Belt.
Tulare County Agricultural Commissioner Marilyn Kinoshita reported the discovery on Saturday.
“Late on Friday, California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) staff reported finding one adult Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) northeast of the city of Strathmore. The insect was identified after a Glassy-winged Sharpshooter trap was pulled from that location and then later inspected for ACP,” announced Kinoshita in an e-mail.
The psyllid is a big threat to citrus because it can carry Huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening. It has not been confirmed if the psyllid carried HLB.
Kinoshita noted that Tulare County alone has 119,000 acres of citrus, 61 citrus packing sheds and four juice plants. There is significant citrus in southern Fresno County and northern Kern County.
Harvest of navel oranges has just begun and officials have not said if the find will impact the harvest, but it should not. The disease is only a threat to the trees and not to humans and it cannot be spread on oranges.
HLB is a deadly bacterial disease that can kill citrus trees in as little as five years. It has done extensive damage to citrus orchards in Florida and parts of the South. There is no known cure for the disease, and officials have relied on extensive monitoring to control the spread of the bug.
Kinoshita said crews will cover the Strathmore area with additional traps, as well as survey citrus trees for the presence of additional psyllids.
An adult psyllid was found in February of this year, east of Lindsay. At that time, 100 traps were deployed within the core square mile and another 50 traps per square mile in the surrounding eight square mile buffer zone. No additional psyllids were located, reported the ag commissioner.
A psyllid with HLB was discovered in late March in the Hacienda Heights of Los Angeles County.
At that time, an official with California Citrus Mutual said the fine was significant since it was the first in California. The bug has been found before in California, but not the disease, although it has been found in Mexico.
Kevin Severns, VP with Citrus Mutual, said in early April the find was a “game changer” for the citrus industry that has expected the disease to show up eventually.
“We’ve had a very robust monitoring program. We’ve never approached this that we would never get it,” said Severns, who also serves on the California Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Committee.
A 93-square-mile quarantine area was set up for the movement of all nursery stock out of the area, while maintaining existing provisions allowing the movement of only commercially cleaned and packed citrus fruit. Any fruit that is not commercially cleaned and packed, including residential citrus, was not allowed to be moved out of the quarantine area.
Severns said fruit cannot transmit the disease. A state ago official said the disease can only be spread by the psyllid or grafted citrus wood.
The discovery comes at the beginning of the 2012-13 navel orange harvest.
This year’s crop is estimated to be one of the largest at 93 million cartons, by far most of those in the Central Valley.
In the 2011 Tulare County Crop report, it was noted that there were 76,700 harvested acres of navel oranges with a value of slightly more than $468 million, down from the $505 million crop from 2010. Valencia oranges, mandarins, lemons and other varieties make up the rest of the 119,000 acres of citrus.
The HLB disease is bacterial and attacks the vascular system of plants. It does not pose a threat to humans or animals. The psyllid was detected in Florida in 1998 and the disease in 2005, and the two have now been detected in all 30 citrus-producing counties in that state.
The University of Florida estimates the disease has tallied more than 6,600 lost jobs, $1.3 billion in lost revenue to growers and $3.6 billion in lost economic activity. The pest and the disease are also present in Texas, Louisiana, Georgia and South Carolina.
The states of Arizona, Mississippi and Alabama have detected the pest but not the disease.
Residents who believe they have seen evidence of HBL in local citrus trees, should call CDFA’s toll-free pest hotline at 1-800-491-1899.