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Tulare County dodges HLB bullet

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  • Tests on massive Asian psyllid discovery in Tulare County return negative

Tests on Asian citrus psyllids (ACP) taken live from infested trees in a neighborhood in Dinuba, Calif. came back negative for the deadly tree disease Huanglongbing (HLB). That is the good news.

The bad news is state officials are planning a quarantine zone that likely will encompass 80 square miles in Tulare and Fresno counties. The zone will likely include all of Dinuba (Tulare County) and Reedley (Fresno County), and their surrounding areas.

A public meeting is planned Sept. 23 in Dinuba from 9 a.m. to noon to provide growers and residents with more information. Location of the meeting has not yet been announced.

There is a potential for a significant amount of commercial citrus in both counties to be included in this quarantine zone, said Les Wright, agricultural commissioner for Fresno County.

Agricultural officials continue to look into how so many psyllids wound up in one small area when earlier finds in Tulare County have been limited to much smaller numbers.

According to Wright, officials discovered adult psyllids in traps on two sides of the infested property in the City of Dinuba. Upon further investigation, Tulare County staff biologist Dennis Haines discovered several small tangerine trees “that were just loaded with psyllids,” Wright said.

The homeowner – a labor contractor who does not speak English – told officials that he got his trees from a commercial grove in Fresno County about nine months ago when he was hired to remove trees so wind machines could be installed. So far the homeowner and the grower to gave the small trees to the labor contractor have been cooperative with officials. Wright emphasized that neither the homeowner or grower did anything illegal.

Wright cannot speculate on how the homeowner's trees became infested with psyllids. The trees and surrounding area were quickly treated to kill any psyllids. Additional spray treatments may be necessary, Wright said.

For homeowners in Fresno County, Wright’s immediate effort will be to help residents understand the seriousness of the pest and what they can do to keep psyllid populations from spreading. Such a large number of psyllids can only mean a reproducing population exists, according to University of California entomologist Elizabeth Grafton-Cardwell.

Part of Wright's educational process will be to educate homeowners in his county on what they can do with their own tree trimmings and fruit within a quarantine zone. Given the large number of citrus trees in urban settings, this kind of information needs to be part of a statewide campaign

While it appears that California dodged a bullet in terms of HLB, the discovery of so many psyllids in such a contained area is an ominous example of the threat citrus tree owners face.

 

Follow me on Twitter @ToddFitchette

 

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