The worst fears of Central California citrus growers may have been realized with confirmation by the California Department of Food and Agriculture that an Asian citrus psyllid was found in Tulare County.
Discovered in early February in a trap near Lindsay, according to the Fresno Bee, it marks the first time an Asian citrus psyllid has been found in the San Joaquin Valley. The psyllid can carry the disease huanglongbing, also known as citrus greening, which in recent years has wiped out tens of thousands of acres of commercial citrus groves in Florida.
There is the possibility the single insect find was an isolated event, that it may have hitchhiked on some other plant material that had been transported from Southern California. More than 100 additional traps were placed in and around Lindsay, but no more psyllids have been found to date, according to the Fresno Bee.
The first Asian citrus psyllid infestation discovered in California was near San Diego in August, 2008. Since then, the state’s citrus grower-shippers and packers have ponied up millions of dollars annually to spearhead a joint federal-state-county effort to keep the pest confined to Southern California.
Keeping the psyllid — and citrus greening — out of the San Joaquin Valley, and particularly Tulare County, is paramount to the California citrus industry. Of the state’s 256,447 fruit-bearing commercial citrus acres, the valley is home to more than 190,000 of those acres, according to the 2010 California Citrus Acreage Report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Tulare County is the state’s No. 1 citrus producing county with nearly 99,000 acres, according to the report.