Officials need more evidence before quarantine
If there is definitely an Asian citrus psyllid population developing in Tulare County, then by all means a quarantine should be imposed as quickly as possible. The key word, however, is ”if.”
State officials are expected to ask the U.S. Department of Agriculture to declare the quarantine this week. The action is in response to the discovery of a psyllid in a trap in a commercial grove near Strathmore. The trap was collected in late October.
The psyllid can carry the most dangerous threat ever to citrus growers — the disease Huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening. There is no cure for the disease that has wiped out entire orchards in Florida and Texas and has been migrating west for more than a decade.
The discovery of the psyllid in October is the second find in Tulare County and the reason the state wants the quarantine. The first psyllid was found in a trap near Lindsay in December of last year. The greening disease has not been detected here.
The quarantine will be costly to many growers and will definitely hurt commercial and retail tree nurseries. The bug, nor the disease, affects the fruit and citrus will still be allowed to be sold and shipped, as long as all green waste is removed from the fruit and it has been washed.
Still, once the quarantine is imposed, it will be in place for two years.
We would like to see ag officials hold off imposing the quarantine for 90 to 120 days unless another psyllid is discovered. That would allow growers, packers and nurseries time to adjust in case the quarantine becomes necessary, something many in the citrus industry expect.
That 90- to 120-day time period should not be critical since the pest is unlikely to show itself during the winter months in the Valley. The pest has thrived in Southern California, but winters are much warmer there. A few cold nights will basically kill off or shut down the psyllid for weeks or months. After that 90 to 120 days, ag officials should reevaluate the situation to determine if the quarantine is still needed.