Florida citrus acreage has fallen from about 800,000 acres to 539,000 acres; about 120,000 acres abandoned due to pests and diseases, El-Lissy says. Florida grows citrus mostly for juice. California is the nation’s second largest citrus-producing state with 253,000 acres followed by Texas with 27,000 acres and Arizona with 22,000. California fruit is sold mostly for fresh consumption.

Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama have detected the ACP but not HLB. Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Louisiana have both.

HLB was first discovered in China in the early 1900s. El-Lissy drew a troubling road map on the rapid spread of the ACP and HLB worldwide. The disease was confirmed in Brazil in 2004. The first U.S. HLB find was in Florida in 2005, then found in Central America, other southern U.S. locations, and in a handful of places in Mexico over the last two years. Each HLB find in Mexico is closer to the U.S.

“You can see a trend and it’s headed this way,” El-Lissy informed the crowd of California citrus nurserymen, growers, researchers, regulators, and other industry leaders. “The situation in Mexico is quite troubling. Some (Mexican) citrus growers are considering replacing citrus with sugarcane. The Mexican government is providing financial assistance to help growers with those decisions.”

California citrus industry leaders state verbally it is a matter of when, not if, HLB is found in the Golden State.

The ACP was first found in California in Fall 2008 in San Diego County near the U.S.-Mexico border. The pest then moved to the counties north and west. The pest or related quarantines involve Imperial, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Riverside, Orange, and San Bernardino counties.

All California ACP finds have tested negative for HLB. The insect has not been found in the Central Valley major citrus production area.

The ACP has been intercepted in packages coming into California containing fruit and plants, including citrus, ornamentals, herbs, and cut flower bouquets shipped from other states and countries.

Federal and/or state ACP quarantines are in effect for the entire states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Hawaii, plus portions of California, Arizona, and South Carolina. Quarantines for ACP and HLB are in place in the entire states of Florida and Georgia, plus Puerto Rico.

Californian’s citrus industry is benefitting from the ACP-HLB lessons learned the hard way by other states and countries. Citrus leaders are actively engaged in planning and pooling financial resources to fight the threat.