Ag Alert. 22 February 2012. Citrus farmers and pest-control officials continue their work to keep the Asian citrus psyllid out of commercial citrus groves in California, but experts who spoke about the pest threat last week at the World Ag Expo in Tulare urged farmers to be prepared for the possibility of psyllid quarantines in commercial groves.
The small, winged insect isn’t particularly destructive on its own, but as it feeds on citrus it can spread a bacterium that causes huanglongbing disease, also known as HLB and sometimes called citrus greening. The bacterial disease has not appeared so far in California.
It has, however, spread widely in Florida, reducing that state’s commercial citrus production by at least 10 percent a year. In Texas, the first known case of HLB was confirmed in mid-January on orange trees in the Rio Grande Valley, known for its grapefruit and orange production.
The Asian citrus psyllid has also been found in Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, Arizona, Hawaii and Mexico. HLB has been found not only in Florida and Texas, but also in Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, Belize and Mexico.
Plant pathologists say the proximity of Mexico to California and the rapid rise in globalization of trade, travel and immigration make the threat of the disease entering California through infected plants or insects a serious one.
In a recent California Senate briefing, lawmakers were told Florida has lost more than 60,000 acres of citrus trees and growers there are spending more than $500 per acre on psyllid control and eradication. One projection suggested that almost all of Florida’s citrus trees will be infected in seven to 12 years.
Once trees are infected, the fruit produced is not marketable and the trees ultimately die. There is no cure for HLB.
In California, quarantines for the psyllid have been established in all of Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties, as well as parts of Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Santa Barbara counties. read more