California’s agriculture department will take on a formidable foe in an effort to protect the state’s $2 billion dollar citrus industry.

In an announcement at the March 8 Citrus Showcase in Visalia, CDFA’s director of Plant Health Inspection, Robert Leavitt, said the trapping and detection activities for Asian citrusp will shift to the state on April 1. The proactive move, according to Leavitt, is to put regulatory muscle in the program.

The Citrus Research Board has been the lead agency in the ACPtrapping and detection as well as educational outreach to urban areas. Asian citrus psyllid, vector of the deadly citrus disease, Huanglongbing, has a foothold in the east Los Angeles area and has been found in a total of five Southern California counties. The disease, also known as citrus greening, has not been found in California. Both ACP and HLB are present in Florida where the industry has lost 200,000 acres of citrus. Worldwide, the disease has infected more than 100 million trees. There is no cure for HLB and trees not removed eventually die. Fruit from infected trees is small and misshapen.

Leavitt also announced that if the citrus disease Huanglongbing is found in the state, in residential or commercial citrus, there will be mandatory tree removal and area-wide treatment to knock down ACP in residential and commercial citrus. California would be the first state to take this approach in the fight against ACP and HLB.

“Area-wide treatments and removal are key to the eradication,” Leavitt told citrus growers.

“This is the difference with Florida, they started too late; here we’re going to be proactive.”

Leavitt said CDFA is committed to working with the citrus industry and fighting ACP “tree by tree, grove by grove.”

According to Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual, the recent discovery of HLB in Texas triggered the change in lead agencies. Other changes include a redirection of treatment efforts to better protect commercial citrus.

Sampling for HLB will be done in areas where ACP populations are heaviest. Leaves from suspect trees are tested and there is now a 48-hour turnaround time for results. Leavitt said homeowners would be notified that the state would remove their infected trees. They would not be compensated, but there has been discussion of replacing the citrus tree with another type of tree. All plant material would be chipped and taken to a landfill. In the case of commercial citrus, infected trees would be burned or chipped depending on the location. All citrus trees adjacent to infected trees would be tested for the disease and removed if necessary. Florida lost their fight with HLB because they did not mandate removal of residential trees, leaving the infection to spread.