The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s request to continue the Citrus Disease Prevention Program during a public hearing held June 19 in Visalia, Calif., received a ‘thumbs up’ from several Tulare County-area citrus growers.

The prevention program is designed to control the Asian citrus psyllid insect, the major vector of the dreaded citrus tree disease Huanglongbing (HLB). The insect-disease combo threatens California’s $2 billion-plus commercial citrus.

Every tree infected by the disease eventually dies.

“This prevention program is very important to the California citrus industry and is the only thing between us and bulldozers, as we’ve seen in Florida,” said Franco Bernardi, general manager of Suntreat Packing in Lindsay, Calif., following the 30-minute hearing.

“If we don’t control this now then we’ll never get a second chance,” said Bernardi, a member of the California Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Committee.

HLB was found in Florida in 2005. The citrus industry there has been severely damaged by this disease.

 

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Thousands of psyllids are located in Southern California, especially in the Los Angeles Basin, and are slowly moving into the Southern San Joaquin Valley where the majority of California commercial citrus is grown.

A single case of HLB was found in a Los Angeles-area neighborhood in Spring 2012. No other cases of HLB have been identified.

Last fall, several psyllids were discovered in Tulare County's Lindsay/Strathmore and Terra Bella areas, but not the disease. Restrictions were recently lifted on the movement of fruit in the citrus-rich region.

Also vocalizing his support of the prevention program was Lemon Cove grower James Gorden.

“The prevention program shows how important it is to continue with a viable citrus program in California,” said Gorden of Hogwallow Farms and a member of the California Citrus Research Board’s board of directors.

If the state prevention program is continued, surveys and trapping for the psyllid would continue.

Another citrus operation gave support for the program.

“Booth Ranches supports the continuation of this program,” said Laird Roddick, special operations manager at the Orange Cove operation.