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Deadly Citrus Pest Found In A Commercial Grove

    California’s citrus industry is still trying to catch its breath after discovering a potentially deadly invasive pest has made its way into a commercial grove in Ventura County. 

    The Asian citrus psyllid is an aphid-like insect that feeds on the leaves of citrus trees and other citrus-like plants. It can be a carrier of the fatal citrus tree disease called Huanglongbing, also known as HLB or citrus greening disease. There is no cure for a tree infected with this disease and the tree will eventually die.

    A tree infected with HLB will have asymmetrical blotches on its leaves and yellow shoots. Fruit produced from an infected tree is hard, has dark seeds and is inedible.

    HLB has already caused major devastation in Asia, India, parts of the Middle East, South and Central America and Florida. The pest and the disease have also been found in Louisiana, South Carolina and Georgia. Asian citrus psyllids have been found in California, Hawaii and Texas, absent the disease.

    Ted Batkin, president of the California Citrus Research Board says, “While all tests in California have thus far come back negative, it is only a matter of time as the disease migrates toward California. We feel we’re making great strides in our trapping and detection, and in our collaboration with national and international colleagues in working toward solutions to limit the affect of the pest and the disease. But, this discovery in another commercial grove just tells us we have to take that diligence to an even higher level.”

 Why Is This Subject So Important?

     California is the number-one economic citrus state in the nation. California produces about 80 percent of the nation’s fresh fruit citrus and is the country’s main source (80%) of fresh market oranges (Florida’s oranges are mainly grown for juice).  Did you know that 87 percent of all lemons come from California?

    You should note that in the past 10 years, the Florida citrus industry has lost nearly 50% of its citrus production. Are you still wondering why your grocery bills are going up?

 What Are They Doing About This Problem?

     The California citrus industry, along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the California Department of Food and Agriculture are working together to try and hold this problem at bay.

    “The growers are continuing to heavily invest at the rate of $20 million a year,” Batkin said. “The funds cover detection, research, treatment and public relations. Public service announcements on the radio and meetings with local government officials are paying off.”

    Eradicating the psyllids and preventing the disease from entering California will be a long term affair. They are estimating that in 3 to 5 years, they should have a product that will work. After that, they predict it will take several more years of testing before they can actually put it to practice in the fields.

    Meanwhile, you’ll see trap-setting continue at an accelerated pace in areas where citrus trees are located.