The Asian citrus psyllid and the bacterial disease Huanglongbing vectored by the pest could literally eliminate California’s $2 billion commercial citrus industry. Yet industry leader Kevin Severns of Sanger does not believe this will happen.

“I am bullish on the California citrus industry,” said Severns, a citrus producer who owns and operates Severns Citrus Farm in Sanger with his wife Cindy. “I believe the California citrus industry has a bright future ahead.”

Severns is not the only California citrus leader to assuredly speak out about the industry odds against the pest-disease threat. Severns and other believe research and other projects underway in California, the U.S., and the world will unlock a long-term solution to ACP-HLB before the threat gains a major foothold in California commercial citrus.

“I am confident that researchers will find a cultural solution for the psyllid and HLB before the California citrus industry enters a state of decline,” said Severns, a second-generation Navel orange producer.

Among the possible cultural answers include HLB-resistant citrus tree varieties and possible methods to stop the insect from spreading the disease.

Severns has confidence in the Citrus Research Board (CRB), the University of California, and other industry members working feverishly to place the threat in handcuffs. “We hope a solution is found so HLB will not be the death sentence for our citrus industry,” Severns said.

The ACP, Diaphorina citri (Kuwayama), is an aphid-like insect three-to-four millimeters long as an adult with a brown mottled body. The pest feeds on the leaves and stems of citrus trees and similar plants.

The psyllid’s actual feeding damage itself is not the major concern. The real issue is the insect-vectored disease is the world’s deadliest for citrus. Wherever the psyllid appears worldwide, HLB is on its heels.

HLB is transmitted to healthy trees by the psyllid feeding on infected-plant tissue. Every HLB-infected tree eventually dies; usually within several years of infection. An infected-tree may not show HLB symptoms — mottled, yellowed leaves — for several years. Misshapen, sour-tasting fruit from an infected tree is unmarketable.

The ACP-HLB duo has destroyed thousands of commercial citrus acres around the world. The pest was first found in the U.S. in Florida in 1998. The disease was later found in every citrus-growing county in the Sunshine State.

HLB was confirmed in Texas in January with several more positive finds found a short time later.

The Western U.S. citrus production belt — California and Arizona — is the last major citrus-growing region in the world to face HLB, Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus. The psyllid was first found in California in 2008 in San Diego and one year later in Yuma, Ariz.

A single, positive HLB case was detected by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) in the Los Angeles community of Hacienda Heights in a residential pummelo-lemon tree in March. The industry expected an eventual HLB find in the state since thousands of psyllids are in L.A. basin residential areas.