For the Capital Press

In spite of the serious issue of a Asian Citrus Psyllid find in their backyard, Tulare County, Calif., citrus growers are focused on keeping fruit moving to market while complying with state rules to keep the disease-carrying insects corralled.

Asian Citrus Psyllids, an invasive pest that can carry the citrus disease Huanglongbing, was trapped for the first time in the state's citrus belt last month. The initial reaction was restricted movement of citrus within a 20-mile radius of the finds.

Early on Dec. 4, the state announced that the restricted movement area would be reduced to five miles as an interim approach to limiting spread of the pest.

The restrictions encompass two zones, one in the Strathmore area and one in the Terra Bella area. Both areas contain numerous citrus acres. Fruit grown and packed within those five mile restricted areas can move freely to markets.

Fruit can move into the areas, but fruit that is grown inside and packed elsewhere must have compliance agreements with the county agriculture commissioner. Those agreements state that the fruit is free of leaves and stems- which have been determined primary carriers of ACP.

The restrictions will be in place for 24 months following the last ACP find.

The good news is that local communities and growers are supporting the containment efforts, said Tulare County Agriculture Commissioner Marilyn Kinoshita. Attendance at two community meetings to explain the situation was sparse, but Kinoshita said those attending had no complaints.

The smaller zones do not contain any citrus nurseries, which would have been severely restricted in their business. Several would have been impacted had the 20-mile area been enforced.

Kern County would also have been affected as fruit from the restricted zones may be sent to packinghouses in that county.

Kinoshita said all shipments from those zones must have a compliance agreement in place.

Leaf trash sorted out at packinghouses must also be disposed of at a designated landfill.

If county inspectors find that fruit is being moved in violation of the agreements, the authorization will be removed until the problem is solve. Kinoshita said the county, which is being assisted in the control efforts by CDFA and USDA, is not trying to restrict movement of fruit, but wants to ensure rules are being followed.

The county is also assisting CDFA in determining the boundaries of the restricted movement areas. They are going by roads and avenues, rather than cutting through block of citrus. Kinoshita said the final maps would be released within days.

Bob Blakely of California Citrus Mutual said backyard citrus trees within 800 meters of the two ACP finds would be required sprayed with insecticides. A contact material and a systemic would be used. 

All growers within the five-mile radius of the finds would be encouraged to treat. Materials that are already in use on other citrus pests have been proven effective against ACP, but Blakely said that this treatment would be an extra precaution. Growers would likely use a contact material to knock any infestations out follow up with a systemic material.

There are organic-approved materials that can be used, Blakely said, but they require multiple treatments.

While huanglongbing has been found in California, it has not been detected in any commercial citrus growing areas. The disease, which has devastated citrus in Florida, causes trees to produced small, misshapen, bitter fruit and eventually kills the tree.

None of the ACP trapped in Tulare County could be tested to see if they carry the disease, Blakely said.

According to the University of California Integrated Pest Management program, state officials are relying heavily on research done on this pest in Florida and Texas. Currently, treatments that are applied to California citrus orchards in the quarantine zone are designed to disinfest trees and thus minimize the risk of moving Asian citrus psyllid in bins of harvested fruit and to limit the natural spread of Asian citrus psyllid throughout California.

Adult psyllids can be detected through visual surveys and yellow sticky cards.

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