As the Asian citrus psyllid continues its spread in Southern California, the California Citrus Research Board has a strong message to send — the industry putting up a fight.

The Asian citrus psyllid, which was confirmed Oct. 29 to also be in Pomona, Calif., and Valley Center, Calif., can be the carrier of a fatal tree disease, called Huanglongbig, also known as HLB or citrus greening disease. While not harmful to human health, HLB destroys production, appearance and value of citrus trees, and the taste of their fruit and juice. Once a tree is infected with the disease, there is no cure and the tree will eventually die.

Asian citrus psyllids have been found in parts of Imperial, San Diego, Orange and Los Angeles counties. Tests have confirmed psyllids found in Southern California trees are not carrying the disease, thus far.

“This pest threatens not only the ability of homeowners to grow citrus in their backyards, but also the entire California citrus industry, and for that reason, we need to be aggressive in our fight,” said Ted Bakin, president of the California Citrus Research Board. “Increased trappings for the pest and testing for the disease are just a few of the things we are doing to protect California citrus, and to augment the programs of the county agriculture commissioners, California Department of Food and Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Food and Agriculture.”

“We’re also continuing research to find ways to fight the bacteria itself.”

The California Citrus Research Board – which has set its own traps to supplement those set by CDFA – opened a diagnostic laboratory in Riverside, Calif., in September to allow for rapid and mass testing of psyllids and plant material. In addition, the board has plans to open a second lab in the San Joaquin Valley sometime in 2010.

All detections of the psyllids in Southern California trees have been in residential citrus. Homeowners are asked to inspect their citrus trees often. For more information and to find out what to look for, visit www.CaliforniaCitrusThreat.org. If you think you have found a psyllid, act fast. Time is critical. Call the California Department of Food and Agriculture hotline at 800/491-1899.

The pest and the disease have already caused devastation in Asia, India, parts of the Middle East, and South and Central America. The pest and the disease have been found domestically in Louisiana, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. In Florida, the psyllid and HLB are ravaging the citrus industry. In fact, Florida growers are losing production of about 10 percent to 12 percent per year from this pest and disease. The insect pest, in the absence of disease, is also found in Hawaii, Texas and California.