California psyllid find hits nurseries

11/21/2012 10:46:00 AM
Mike Hornick

citrus psyllidThe discovery of an Asian citrus psyllid in an orange orchard near Strathmore, Calif., is expected to result in a quarantine that will hit commercial nurseries hardest.

“We got the word from (the California Department of Food and Agriculture and U.S. Department of Agriculture) that we’re going full speed ahead with a quarantine,” said Marilyn Kinoshita, Tulare County agricultural commissioner. She anticipates a two-year quarantine over a roughly 20-mile radius to start the week after Thanksgiving.

A single psyllid was found in a glassy-winged sharpshooter trap set by the state agriculture department. The sample was collected Oct. 15. Because it was not a psyllid trap, detection waited until Nov. 16, after secondary analysis.

That lag meant the psyllid wasn’t testable for citrus greening bacteria. There’s no evidence of citrus greening on local trees, Kinoshita said. The pests are fairly harmless when they don’t carry the bacteria.

On Nov. 18 the CDFA began daily checks of traps. There are 1,137 in the region, some newly placed.

“They have not found more psyllids,” Kinoshita said Nov. 20.

For growers, a quarantine means leaf material and debris must be separated from fruit in the grove or packinghouse and bagged before citrus can leave the area. The bigger effect will be on more than 20 commercial nurseries operating in Tulare County, Kinoshita said.

“Citrus nurseries really get devastated by this,” she said. “Ours are used to selling to other states or up and down California. What they do is hugely expensive and now they can only move within the quarantined area.”

It would be less damaging if Tulare were part of a broader quarantine. That’s not the case, despite widespread quarantines in California.

“If Kern County developed a quarantine, nurseries here could ship all the way to the Mexican border,” Kinoshita said. “We can’t now because it’s not contiguous. It’s horrible to have to tell somebody that.”

Nurseries have been gearing up for a January 2015 deadline to get their stock under screens impervious to Asian citrus psyllid.

CDFA has not identified the commercial grower near Strathmore.

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