Alan Loghry’s voice echoes with frustration and anger over the half-million dollar hit his family’s wholesale citrus nursery has taken since a federal psyllid quarantine took effect in Yuma County, Ariz., last November.
“We’ve lost about 98 percent of our citrus tree sales (due to quarantine restrictions),” Loghry said. “That’s about 95 percent of our income. We’ve been shut off from our customers in Phoenix and Tucson which we’ve had for 40 to 50 years.”
The elder Loghry and son Mark, third- and fourth-generation nurserymen respectively, own and operate the 60-acre Sunset Nursery, Inc. in Yuma.
“Financially we can’t keep going on like this forever,” the senior Loghry said.
Due to shipping restrictions, the Loghrys have shipped three truckloads of trees since the quarantine began Nov. 5, 2009.
The quarantines in Yuma County and southern California involve state and federal agencies. The goal is to prevent the spread of the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP).
The psyllid is the primary vector for the destructive bacterial disease Huanglongbing (HLB), Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus, or citrus greening.
The Western citrus industry is feeling the financial pinch from the insect. Many citrus leaders contend it is a matter of “when,” not “if,” HLB is found in the Golden State. Unknown is whether the disease can exist in the hot summer heat in California and Arizona’s low desert citrus-growing region.
HLB kills every tree it infects. Odd-shaped, sour-tasting fruit from infected trees is un-marketable. HLB tree symptoms, including yellowing foliage, are generally visible three to five years after inoculation.
HLB has devastated the citrus industry in Florida, the nation’s top citrus producing-state where production is primarily for the juice market. The psyllid was first found in Florida in 1998; HLB was confirmed in 2005. Florida citrus growers destroyed about 20,000 citrus trees last year due to the HLB and citrus canker diseases.
California is the nation’s second largest citrus-producing state and the largest grower of fresh citrus. Most citrus is grown in the Central Valley with orchards also located in southern California.
About 75 percent of the Arizona citrus crop, mostly lemons, is grown in Yuma County.
The ACP was first found in the West in a sticky trap in San Diego County, Calif., in fall 2008. Psyllids were later found in traps in Imperial, Los Angeles and Orange counties.
A trained Labrador retriever dog intercepted a psyllid in a duffle bag with contraband plant material at a Federal Express office in Fresno, Calif.
The first psyllid find in Arizona was near San Luis (Yuma County) in October 2009. Eight psyllids were trapped as of late May, all in Yuma County, according to Brian McGrew, quarantine program coordinator with the Arizona Department of Agriculture (ADA). The last psyllid find was March 31.
About 6,500 traps are placed across Arizona. McGrew says the San Luis find had the only breeding population.