Citrus grower Nick Hill applauded the ongoing efforts to combat ACP. For the last three years, the strategy has been to knock down populations and conduct an educational outreach to urban residents. Hill said that effort has been very successful with a nearly 100 percent acceptance rate for spraying back yard citrus trees where ACP has been detected.

Hill heads the Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Committee, formed by the state legislature in 2009 to develop a citrus pest and disease work plan. The committee is also charged with setting the carton assessment to pay for the trapping and spraying as well as the outreach programs. Currently, growers pay 9 cents per 40-pound carton to fund the program. Budget for 2011 was $15 million.

Last year, 72,809 residential sites were treated and 11,000 yellow sticky traps were placed in urban areas. There were 2,800 samples of ACP tested for the HLB virus and 1,000 tissue samples tested.

In other states with ACP populations, the HLB virus was detected about five years after the pest was first discovered.

The situation for California citrus growers is scary, Hill admitted, but he believes that with mandatory tree removals plus continued ACP suppression, they have a fighting chance.

Leavitt said the state is reaching out to organic growers in an effort to help them keep their certification if chemical control is necessary in their groves. If effective organic-approved sprays are available they could be used instead, he said.

Potential for bio control of ACP is another positive result of work by UC researchers. Mark Hoddle of UC Riverside brought back two species of parasitic wasps from Pakistan in 2011 and recently received clearance to release one specie — Tamarixia. The wasps target ACP.

Since release, Hoddle and other researchers are trying to determine if Tamarixia are reproducing in the field.

Richard Stouthamer of UC Riverside told growers that the mass-rearing process for the wasp in the laboratory is aimed at genetic diversity that will result in hybrid females being released.