Preparing for Asian citrus psyllid

As growers in southern San Diego, Imperial, and Riverside counties have experienced, the sudden discovery of the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) in your backyard and the imposition of quarantine can really interfere with citrus harvest, transportation and marketing plans.

With the find of ACP along the Highway 5 transportation corridor in Santa Ana and now Los Angeles County, the future discovery of ACP in the San Joaquin Valley in the near future is a very real possibility. In Kern County, for example, several governmental agencies as well as a host of private growers and pest control advisors have been looking for this pest, both in urban and rural areas, for several years by several means including visual inspections of plant parts and traps.

This increased scrutiny greatly increases the odds that if it is already here, or if it newly arrives, that it will be rapidly detected.

Let’s imagine the following scenario in Kern County, although many other scenarios are possible for anyone moving fruit in and out of the San Joaquin Valley. The date is Oct. 20, 2009 and the early navel fruit harvest season is kicking into full gear. Trucks loaded with fruit for gassing are heading north for the packing houses, the harvest schedule for the next month is set, and the marketers have been selling fruit enthusiastically — and ACP is found triggering a quarantine of either the southern half of Kern County or all of Kern County.

What happens next?

As a result of quarantine, generally, handlers and haulers have had to sign “compliance agreements” before moving product out of the quarantined area. These agreements state that the fruit has been processed and cleaned in such a way that eliminates all plant parts including leaves, stems and debris and that the cleaning has eliminated all life stages of the Asian citrus psyllid. In Riverside County, all harvested citrus in the quarantine area must be commercially cleaned and packed before it can be moved out of the area.

What would be required in Kern County would likely be similar to what is occurring in other citrus growing areas where this pest is found.

The objective of my scenario is not to needlessly panic growers and packers, but to encourage them to think about how regulations associated with the sudden imposition of quarantine would be addressed.

Most companies have probably already developed plans of actions should this occur. However, the observation that much of Kern County’s fruit is packed outside the county, may make compliance with quarantine regulations potentially more difficult for many growers and packers that produce fruit in Kern County.

It would be prudent to have plans for how fruit will be cleaned should quarantine occur, well before any potential quarantine is instituted.

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