Citrus pest is a huge threat to us all
We live in the middle of the universe when it comes to citrus. Sure, Florida likes to claim its dominance when it comes to oranges, but mostly what is grown in Florida is for orange juice and concentrate. It is here, in the Orange Belt, that much of the nation’s and world’s supply of fresh oranges are grown.
Locally, citrus is king and that is why every resident needs to do their part in helping to control and eradicate the Asian citrus psyllid that has been found in three different traps locally in the past 11 months. The psyllid carries a disease — citrus greening — that is by far the biggest threat to not only our citrus groves, but our economy, maybe our way of life.
There is no cure for the disease that can wipe out entire groves in less than five years. It has caused billions of dollars in damage in Florida and Texas where it has gotten entrenched. So far, the disease was only found in one tree in Southern California. However, the bug continues to migrate north.
One only has to go back 20 years to see how important the citrus industry is to the area.
The freeze in December of 1990 wiped out not only the navel orange crop, but all citrus crops through 1991. Unemployment rates skyrocketed to close to 30% locally and 50% in Lindsay. Citrus is a three-quarters of a billion dollar industry in Tulare County and more than 13,000 residents earn their livelihood from citrus.
Spraying of backyard citrus in areas around where the latest psyllids have been found — Strathmore and Terra Bella — will be done over the next few days. It is important that residents allow the spraying and it is important that all residents who have citrus trees in their yards, inspect those trees, even spray them. Officials said only a mild pesticide is needed and it is not harmful to the fruit.
There is no doubt that allowing the psyllid to establish residency in the Orange Belt is a huge threat to our communities. We all need to do our part to stop it now.