UC researcher's comments sound serious alarm

  • UC researcher's analysis of latest Asian citrus psyllid find in Tulare County should be call to aggressive action.

Reaction to California’s latest discovery of the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) has a distinctly ominous tone. Certainly the word used by a respected University of California researcher to describe the situation ought to sound an alarm.

The fact that Elizabeth Grafton-Cardwell, director of the Lindcove Research and Extension Center, and a research entomologist with UC Riverside, twice uses the word “infested” in her blog about recent ACP discoveries in Dinuba, Calif. should encourage an immediate and universal call to action.

This week’s discovery in yet another urban setting was quite ominous. The Fresno Bee reports that a Fresno County entomologist saw at least 100 psyllids on three young citrus trees. The Bee attributes Grafton-Cardwell with the idea that there is a reproducing population of ACPs in the region. This is bad.

Grafton-Cardwell writes in her blog: “This situation points out the need to educate everyone that they must never move plant material from ACP-infested areas that are under quarantine to areas such as the San Joaquin Valley where the pest has not yet established.”

She is right. The challenge is enforcing this.

I recently wrote about a statewide media effort to educate Californians about the ACP and what the state and commercial citrus industry are doing to combat the pest through a public education program.

Here is a shining example of what we are up against and why education efforts alone are apparently not enough, not currently sufficient, or both.

Urban residents need to fully comprehend the danger this pest poses to the citrus trees in their yards and the multi-billion dollar commercial citrus industry in California. I personally do not think residents understand the scope of the issue. Am I alone in this thought? You decide.

This incident also suggests that we may not be asking the appropriate and very difficult questions that need to be addressed related to this issue. For instance, why are so many psyllid discoveries in urban settings, or is this just an anomaly? Are there higher concentrations of the pest in urban settings than in commercial orchards? If so, what are the possible reasons for this? Inquiring minds want to know!

Do we need tougher border, port and customs inspections to find prohibited agricultural items coming across our borders? What about penalties for those caught moving restricted goods from quarantine areas? How do we enforce such restrictions? How do we properly educate residents about this and other issues with equally dire consequences to agriculture and their food supply.

I am open to ideas. Your input is welcome.

Contact me at tfitchette@farmpress.com.


Follow me on Twitter @ToddFitchette

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