Santa Maria Sun / News
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 15, Issue 4
Citrus pest found in San Luis Obispo County
By Camillia Lanham
The wait is finally over for citrus growers in San Luis Obispo County steeling for the inevitable: The Asian citrus psyllid has crossed over the quarantined Santa Barbara County line and into new territory.
The pest has been on a steady northward march since it was first detected in San Diego County in 2008. In April 2013, Santa Barbara County joined the already quarantined rest of Southern California when three of the pests were discovered on insect traps in Santa Maria.
Asian citrus psyllids can carry a disease known as citrus greening or Huanglongbing, which is deadly to citrus trees, has no cure, and has the potential to knock California citrus production down by at least 20 percent. In 2012, the greening disease was detected in the Hacienda Heights area of Los Angeles County. The residential citrus tree found with the disease was removed from the property and destroyed. It is the only known case of the disease in California.
The first Asian citrus psyllid detected in SLO County was found on March 26 in an insect trap in a residential landscape near Arroyo Grande, said Martin Settevendemie, the county agricultural commissioner. Citrus trees and produce within 5 square miles of the site are under quarantine. That area includes 650 acres of commercial citrus trees as well as a number of retail and commercial nurseries.
“Citrus nursery stock will not be able to leave the quarantine area,” Settevendemie said.
As far as citrus fruit is concerned, produce can only be moved if it meets California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) guidelines. Citrus fruit has to be commercially treated at the time of harvest—de-stemmed, de-leaved, and packed into a box—before it can travel across the quarantine border.
Residential trees will also need to be treated. After psyllids were detected in Santa Maria last year, the CDFA applied two insecticides to every citrus tree within an 800-meter radius of the residences where the pest was initially found. One of the pesticides was applied to the leaves, and the other was applied to the soil for the roots to soak up. The department has used the two-pronged treatment since the first California sighting in 2008. Since then, sticky paper has hung near residential and commercial citrus trees in most California counties as a way of spotting the pest.
Settevendemie said approximately 300 of those sticky sheets of yellow paper are hung up throughout the county, and the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office will continue to monitor and survey the county for the pest. He added that most growers felt it was only a matter of time before the psyllid made an appearance in the county.
“The growers have been on notice, so to speak,” Settevendemie said. “They’ve kind of been expecting it since the finds in Santa Maria.”
A public meeting to address the pest will be held on April 8 at the South County Regional Center, 800 W. Branch St. in Arroyo Grande, from 6 to 8 p.m. The CDFA will also be conducting door-to-door outreach efforts to talk about pest treatment plans.
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