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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on April 17th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 6 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 14, Issue 6

Citrus are quarantined from Santa Barbara County to the Mexican border


The discovery of the ninth Asian citrus psyllid in Santa Barbara County since last November prompted the California Department of Food and Agriculture to put the county’s citrus trees and fruit under quarantine as of April 8.

Bugging out:
Santa Barbara is the latest county to join the list of Southern California counties whose citrus trees and fruit are quarantined due to the Asian citrus psyllid.

Three of those teeny bugs were found in a relatively small area near the public library in Santa Maria, five were found in a residential neighborhood near Elings Park in Santa Barbara, and, most recently, one was found in Goleta. The county joins a continuous quarantined area that starts in San Diego County and works through Orange, Los Angeles, and Ventura counties, and parts of San Bernardino, Riverside, and Imperial counties.

The psyllid could carry a disease known as citrus greening, which is deadly to citrus trees, has no cure, and has the potential to knock California citrus production down by at least 20 percent. Santa Barbara County Assistant Agricultural Commissioner Guy Tingos said the quarantine is effectively buying California’s agricultural community a little more time.

“I don’t think eradicating the pest is a possibility,” Tingos said. “We’re just trying to suppress it as long as we can to try and give scientists some time to find a way to either effectively control the disease or the pest.”

Pests were found within a relatively close distance from one another in both Santa Maria and Santa Barbara, which leads scientists to believe there are small breeding populations in both cities. Tingos said commissioners spoke with commercial growers in the area before moving ahead with the quarantine order, and everyone agrees it’s for the best.

The quarantine prohibits movement of trees out of the quarantined area—they can’t move north of the county’s border—and requires that all citrus fruit be cleaned of leaves and stems before moving out of the area.

Tingos said the pest is so small it can be transported by moving fruit with leaves and stems on it, or by a strong breeze. They ask that fruit grown at residences stay on the property unless thoroughly cleaned and the stems and leaves are removed. He also said healthy trees are one of the best defenses against the pest and the disease.

The greening disease, known as huanglongbing, was detected last year in the Hacienda Heights area of Los Angeles County. A press release from the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office said 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.

“Everywhere else the pest has shown up the disease has always followed,” Tingos told the Sun. “This is probably just the beginning.”