SACRAMENTO — A California agency has begun a social media campaign to urge urban dwellers with citrus trees to watch out for signs of the deadly tree disease huanglongbing.
The state Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Program is taking to Facebook and other platforms to urge people to “take the pledge” to inspect their trees regularly.
The residents are encouraged to notify the state Department of Food and Agriculture and work with agriculture officials if they see signs of huanglongbing or its potential carrier, the Asian citrus psyllid.
“This pledge is just another way to put the issue out in front of people and bring them to the solution,” said Alyssa Houtby, a spokeswoman for the growers’ group California Citrus Mutual. “It’s another way to raise awareness and create interaction with homeowners, to make them understand they’re part of the solution.”
Houtby notes that 30 trees in residential neighborhoods in Southern California have been found with huanglongbing, which has devastated the citrus industry in the southeastern U.S.
The campaign comes as California is strengthening its quarantine for the psyllid, which now covers roughly one-third of the state’s total land mass, and has been conducting training sessions for field crews in how to combat the psyllid and the disease.
An early symptom of huanglongbing is yellowing of leaves on an individual limb or one sector of the tree’s canopy, according to the University of California’s Integrated Pest Management Program. Leaves that turn yellow from the disease show an asymmetrical pattern of blotchy yellowing or molting.
In the social media campaign, participants pledge to inspect citrus trees monthly for signs of the psyllid or the disease and work with officials, including allowing traps to be hung in trees, treating trees when psyllids are detected, taking leaf samples and removing diseased trees.
Participants are also asked not to bring citrus trees, leaves or plant cuttings to California from outside their region. Prizes will be awarded weekly to recipients chosen at random, according to a news release.
To participate, people can visit the California Citrus Threat page on Facebook or CaliforniaCitrusThreat.org/pledge .