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Another citrus psyllid discovered in Orange Belt
Third find ensures a citrus quarantine
A third and game changing Asian citrus psyllid was discovered in a trap south of Terra Bella, county and state ag officials announced Tuesday.
The discovery is the third this year and definitely puts in motion a citrus quarantine that was expected to be announced this week. That announcement may be delayed a few days because officials now must rethink the boundaries that were expected to be roughly a 20-mile radius around the find earlier this month of a psyllid in a trap northeast of Strathmore.
Steve Lyle, spokesman for the California Department of Food and Agriculture, said the newest discovery means that the boundary will have to be reexamined and likely expanded further south.
“It’s a new foundation of information,” said Lyle.
Bob Blakley with California Citrus Mutual, said they were informed of the discovery last week.
“We’d certainly preferred they didn’t find any more,” he said, adding that they were not surprised by the discovery and understand now the quarantine must move forward.
“I don’t think there’s anybody who is against a quarantine,” he said, adding the question now is how large a quarantine area.
Blakley said the pest was discovered in the same batch of traps picked up in October. “Both were along that Highway 65 corridor and lets us believe it was a hitchhiker,” he said.
The tiny pest can transmit the tree disease Huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening, that has already caused great devastation to the citrus industry in Florida and parts of Texas. The disease does not affect the fruit, but can kill trees in less than five years.
There is no cure for the bacterial disease, so stopping it before it starts is key.
Multiple quarantines are in place in Southern California, where the pest is endemic in some areas. So far, there has been only one find of the disease and officials believe that was imported into Southern California on a growth that was drafted onto a citrus tree.
There are two kinds of quarantine, one for the psyllid and a second, more restrictive quarantine if the disease is discovered.
The first psyllid was discovered in the county in late December near Lindsay. The last discovery was made last Wednesday.
The discoveries are in glassy-winged sharpshooter traps, another citrus pest, and Lyle explained that is why there is a time lag between when the trap is collected and the discovery is announced. He said they first inspect the trap for the sharpshooter, then other pests.
Hundreds of psyllid traps have been deployed in the county.
Lyle said plans are in the works to begin treating citrus trees to kill the pest. He said the CDFA will treat trees on private property, while they leave it up to growers to treat their own groves. He said compliance by growers is strong because it is they who have the most to lose.
Citrus is a $700 million industry in Tulare County and harvesting of the 2012-13 crop has just begun. More than 13,000 people are employed in he citrus industry in Tulare County.
The quarantine will not affect the sale or movement of packed fruit, but will restrict the movement of any foliage and of citrus seedlings. Before fruit can be moved outside of the quarantine area, all foliage must be removed. Seedlings will have to be protected in enclosed areas before they can be transported outside of the quarantined area.
Officials have said the quarantine will be in place for a minimum of two years.
A meeting for growers, packers and shippers will be held today at the Heritage Complex in Tulare. The first meeting, for growers north of Highway 137, will be held from 9 a.m. to noon. The second meeting, for growers south of Highway 137, will be held 2 to 5 p.m.
Residents who believe they have seen evidence of HLB in local citrus trees, should call CDFA’s toll-free pest hotline at 1-800-491-1899.