Asian citrus psyllid feeds on small tree in southern California

Asian citrus psyllid feeds on small tree in a residential southern California neighborhood

Does California need more PCAs for ACP fight?

Time is typically an unfriendly partner of the urgent.

A University of California researcher considered an expert in pests like the Asian citrus psyllid, seems stymied at what she calls “push-back” from crop consultants employed by commercial growers to handle issues such as bug infestations.

UC Entomologist Elizabeth Grafton-Cardwell told an audience of professional crop advisors and citrus growers that some PCAs are reluctant to employ recommendations of aggressive sampling techniques because they claim to be too busy with other things.

If that is indeed the case, then California agriculture has bigger problems than the citrus greening these tiny bugs can transmit.

We’ll assume for argument’s sake that the PCAs claiming they’re too busy to methodically sample citrus trees – Grafton-Cardwell is recommending 50 trees per orchard – is an honest assessment of all they have going on, and not an excuse to take it easy.

If such is the case then the industry needs more PCAs and crop experts. If PCAs are too over-extended, what else is not being addressed that should be to keep California agriculture sustainable?

Why would a respected UC entomologist say she’s received “push-back” from PCAs over her recommendations if that didn’t run counter to the notion that the ACP is the deadliest thing ever to happen to California citrus outside of the current drought?

Not the only pest problem

Granted, the ACP is not the only pest issue on the plate of California citrus growers. Because of their export ramifications, pest and disease issues related to Brown rot and the Fuller rose beetle are of more immediate concerns of the citrus industry.

Maybe Golden State growers aren’t concerned because the ACP here in California hasn’t been found to have Huanglongbing, which has infected all of Florida’s groves and has spread to Louisiana and Texas. After all, southern California is swimming in psyllids and the tiny bug has been found along the Central Coast and southern San Joaquin Valley sans the bacterium that causes HLB.

Silvie Robillard, a citrus industry grower liaison with the CDFA’s Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Program, told me there are still people who believe HLB is a non-issue and that we ought to be focused elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the CDFA continues to sample psyllids captured in southern California and elsewhere for the bacterium that causes HLB.

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California’s multi-billion dollar citrus industry is well within its right to focus on trade barriers and other issues farmers and their trade associations deem important.

If addressing the ACP and HLB are as critical to the survival of California citrus as the industry claims, then moving Heaven and Earth to employ the guidelines of respected university researchers should be necessary and not arduous.


Reach me at [email protected]. Follow me on Twitter @ToddFitchette

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