Wednesday, hundreds of people in the citrus industry came together at the Tulare Ag Center. They discussed a plan of how to combat a tiny insect that’s threatening to destroy crops. We’re talking about the Asian Citrus Psyllid. Three of these bugs have been found in Tulare County this year, two of them in the last week. Fortunately, none have tested positive for H.L.B. disease, a bacteria which kills citrus trees.
“The disease, once the tree has it, there’s no cure. There’s nothing to do but to wait for it to die,” said Dennis Haines, a Biologist with Tulare Co.
A 2-year quarantine is now being put in place to try and stop this bug from spreading out. Citrus growers have to abide by new procedures pertaining to picking, packing and using pesticides.
Biologist, Dennis Haines, says the tiny Asian Citrus Psyllids are just 2 millimeters in size. They likely came to the Central Valley by hitching a ride from southern California.
“Either through the movement of equipment or just people,” said Haines.
Now our local growers have to worry about this insect possibly destroying their orange trees.
“It’s my livelihood, it’s my job, so the unknown is frustrating,” Phillip Giannetto, a citrus grower.
The exact boundaries of the quarantine have not been determined but we know it will encompass a 20 mile radius. From Woodlake down to Ducor that’s about 75% of the county’s citrus crop, which accounts for nearly a half billion dollars each year.
“We want to prevent the spread of it. We know what’s it’s done in Florida. It’s literally devastated, Florida citrus, cut it in half essentially,” said John Ojala, Booth Ranches.
Fruit in the quarantine is still safe to pick and eat. The only difference is that it will have to pass a few more inspections before leaving the isolated area. Growers say the key is to delay the onset of the H.I.B. disease long enough to allow scientists to find a way to combat it.
“Like genetics and breeding that can come up with resistant varieties, those are the things that are going to answer and solve this problem,” said Ojala.
This quarantine will remain in place for a minimum of two years. It can only be lifted if no more psyllids turn up in any traps after that time.