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California uses media to combat Asian citrus psyllid

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Efforts to inform and educate Californians on dangers of the tiny Asian citrus psyllid cannot be overlooked if California citrus is going to have a fighting chance at this dangerous invasive pest.

A non-regulatory effort to combat the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) and the disease it vectors is on the air waves.

An aggressive public outreach campaign is under way to educate homeowners about the real threat the tiny ACP is to California citrus. That is because the insect vectors a fatal tree disease called Huanglongbing.

What makes the disease so insidious is it does not discriminate. California’s only known case of Huanglongbing (HLB), the fatal tree disease that affects citrus trees, was reported several years ago in a residential neighborhood in Hacienda Heights near Los Angeles.

An obvious goal is to keep the psyllid out of commercial groves as the California multi-billion dollar citrus industry accounts for about a third of all citrus grown commercially in the U.S. Citrus is also an important part of California’s urban landscape.

San Joaquin Valley citrus grower Kevin Severns is featured in a short video which appears on the Citrus Insider, the website of the California Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program. Severns told Western Farm Press last year that he is optimistic about California’s opportunity to successfully combat the ACP and prevent HLB from taking hold.

“It’s impossible to imagine California without citrus,” Severns says in the video. “It’s part of our history and landscape… together we can save California citrus.”

The carefully-crafted video seeks public support to battle the pest and the disease.

Not included in the video is a State of California effort to help combat the disease – a spraying program in urban citrus.

Several recent ACP discoveries near Porterville in Tulare County brought out inspectors and a concerted effort to search for more psyllids in the area. The recent discovery of a single psyllid earlier this month near the Kern County community of Wasco is an example that psyllids move around.

According to California agriculture officials, one homeowner in Porterville didn’t want their citrus tree sprayed by the state. Others were agreeable to state sprays and an intensive survey of residential trees by California Department of Food and Agriculture inspectors.

A multi-pronged approach is a good idea to battle invasive pests and the economic damage insects could cause to California’s $45 billion agriculture industry.

Consumers need to be aware of what growers and state regulators are working on when it comes to supplying a safe and nutritious supply of citrus and other fruits and vegetables to grocery stores, farmer’s markets, and other outlets.

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