Two additional Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) discoveries in California’s most prolific orange-producing county pushed state officials in September to enact a countywide quarantine for the tiny pest.
The announcement comes after Tulare County painstakingly attempted to keep quarantine zones as small as possible in a legitimate attempt to contain and eradicate the invasive pest.
It appears that eradication didn’t come and now the pest seems to be spreading in the San Joaquin Valley. Officials found two adult psyllids in traps in the City of Tulare last month as Kern County officials announced a simultaneous find in a south Bakersfield neighborhood.
This was the first-ever find for both San Joaquin Valley cities.
Tulare County officials and local citrus industry leaders are to be praised for their efforts to jump on this pest as soon as it was discovered nearly two years ago in the Porterville area. While there are still a number of valid unanswered questions related to the pest’s movement throughout the county, the industry cannot wait any longer.
We recently reported about efforts in Tulare County to set up voluntary psyllid management areas. These zones seek to subdivide the county into smaller regions where growers can use a coordinated effort to treat for psyllids.
Recommending the area-wide approach is said to come from the University of California based on a number of factors.
Time to pull trigger
Tulare’s new countywide quarantine should be that trigger.
Under area-wide treatment protocols, growers would voluntarily treat their trees at the same time in an attempt to kill all psyllids within a given area.
However, the ACP fight cannot be borne solely by the commercial citrus industry. Growers certainly have a large financial stake in their groves; the psyllid is generally not picky when it comes to choosing which citrus host to feed upon.
Given time it doesn’t matter how much a commercial grower sprays his trees, a population explosion of ACP within a residential neighborhood in Bakersfield, Porterville or Tulare could overwhelm any treatment options a grower could employ.
Then of course there’s the issue of “label rates” and DPR.
I’m told there are more citrus trees in yards throughout California than there are commercial citrus trees in the entire state.
If true the commercial citrus industry will need the help of everyone with a citrus tree to fight what seeks to kill a Golden State cultural icon.
A recent newspaper article about CDFA treatment programs in the City of Tulare suggest residents there are either unaware or woefully misinformed about the Asian citrus psyllid. The newspaper quotes one resident who believes the ACP bites humans and can kill them. Don't laugh! That presents a very real challenge to the citrus industry and agriculture in general.
While many growers already treat their groves with approved insecticides, residents generally do not treat, and as a result psyllid numbers continue to rise. This suggests the psyllid is simply using the safe-zones of our untreated urban neighborhoods to effectively reproduce.
Nature is smart that way.
Until we get a firm grasp on non-commercial trees it appears that commercial growers will continue to fight an uphill battle.
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