California Citrus Outpaces Florida But Risk From Bacterial Disease Remains – Capital Public Radio

By Julia Mitric

The Asian citrus psyllid spreads the deadly bacterial disease known as huanglongbing to citrus trees.

That disease cut Florida’s citrus crop in half over the past decade according to Bob Blakely with industry group California Citrus Mutual.

A recent USDA citrus report finds California produced nearly four million tons of citrus over the 2016-17 season. Florida produced three and a half million tons over the same period.

“This is a case where it’s not nice to be number one,” says Blakely ruefully.

“It’s unfortunate when you think about where they’ve come from and how devastating that disease has been in Florida.”

Florida’s experience with huanglongbing or “citrus greening” provided a powerful cautionary tale for California farmers.

While the pest has been found in many California counties, the disease is far more limited.

Blakely says cooperative spraying is one strategy used to limit the psyllid.

“We encourage growers to coordinate their sprays over wide areas with their neighbors to control the pest,” explains Blakely.

The idea is to prevent the psyllid from moving out of the treated area and re-populating nearby.

The Asian citrus psyllid feeds on citrus foliage.

Blakely says growers are now required to tarp citrus loads before they leave the field to keep the psyllid from hopping off trucks and spreading to citrus trees along the highway.

Citrus growers are looking for ways to limit the spread of the pest until researchers find a cure for huanglongbing.

The original post and the audio link are on the Capital Public Radio site here.

More information about the Asian citrus psyllid and huanglongbing is available on CDFA’s website here.

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