CITRUS PEST & DISEASE PREVENTION PROGRAM WARNS JAMUL RESIDENTS OF A DANGEROUS PEST LURKING IN BACKYARDS

Homeowners Asked to Search for the Asian Citrus Psyllid and Huanglongbing Disease

Growing fresh citrus is a pastime San Diegans have enjoyed for generations, but it’s now at risk due to the presence of an insect called the Asian citrus psyllid, which can carry a citrus bacterium being hailed as the worst plant disease in modern history.

After a surge in local discoveries of the dangerous insect, agriculture officials are sounding the alarm and asking homeowners to inspect for the pest and the plant disease it can carry, Huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening disease. While not harmful to human health, HLB is fatal to citrus trees. Once a tree is infected with the disease, there is no cure and the tree will eventually die. Prior to death, the tree will produce extremely bitter, hard and misshapen fruit. HLB is considered to be a death sentence for California citrus and it was discovered in a residential area of Los Angeles earlier this year.

The Asian citrus psyllid, which has spread throughout Southern California since 2008, can transmit the disease from tree to tree as it feeds, and the best way to control HLB is to suppress the population of the psyllid. Quarantines are in effect in San Diego, Orange, Imperial, Ventura, Santa Barbara, Riverside, San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties to protect against the spread of the pest. Homeowners in these areas play a crucial role in preventing the spread of the Asian citrus psyllid and HLB, and preserving the availability of fresh, locally grown citrus for Californians and the ability of homeowners to grow their own backyard citrus.

“Citrus is engrained in the culture of our state and it’s important that San Diego homeowners cooperate with agriculture officials as we all fight to protect our beloved citrus for future generations,” said Ted Batkin, participant in the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program, who said trapping and treatment for the pest is occurring in San Diego County neighborhoods, including Borrego Springs, Alpine, Escondido, Jamul and El Cajon.

“There are many ways homeowners all over San Diego can help control the population of the Asian citrus psyllid, limit the spread of HLB, and overcome this threat to their backyard citrus.” The Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program offers the following tips:

·       Inspect your citrus trees for signs of the pest and disease each month or whenever watering, spraying, pruning or tending trees.

·       Do not bring any plant material into California from other states or countries and don’t move citrus plants out of quarantined areas, because they might be carrying psyllids or be infected with HLB.

·       Only buy citrus trees from reputable, licensed California nurseries.

·       Use only registered budwood with source documentation.

·       Dry or double bag plant clippings prior to disposal to avoid moving psyllids and HLB-infected plant materials.

·       Cooperate with agriculture officials on detection and suppression efforts of the Asian citrus psyllid and HLB.

·       Visit your local nursery or garden center to talk to a representative about products that can help protect your citrus.

For more information and to find out what to look for, visit www.CaliforniaCitrusThreat.org. If you think you have found a psyllid or if your tree has symptoms of HLB, act fast. Call the California Department of Food and Agriculture hotline at 800/491-1899.

The pest and the disease have already caused devastation in Asia, India, parts of the Middle East, and South and Central America. The pest and the disease have been found domestically in Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and California. In Florida, the psyllid and HLB are ravaging the citrus industry. The insect pest, in the absence of disease, is also found in Hawaii and Arizona.