Beyond the Bubble: Fear Grips California Citrus Growers as HLB Infected Asian Psyllid Discovered
It happened in Hacienda Heights, a suburban bedroom community on the east side of LA County. State ag inspectors peered closely at a sickly citrus tree. Could it be?
The California Department of Food and Agriculture sent the tree to labs in Riverside and Washington, D.C. The results are buzzing around the Citrus Research Board office in Visalia, the Visalia Times Delta reports.
The Asian citrus psyllid, having established itself in our yards, is indeed carrying the bacterial infection we’ve known it’s capable of carrying: huanglongbing, or HLB, or “citrus greening,” or a major problem for one of California’s major crops.
HLB attacks the vascular systems of citrus trees, causing them to produce bitter, yucky looking fruit before they die.
In January, the California Report talked to Mark Hoddle, UC Riverside entomologist and researcher, about his efforts to fight the psyllid by releasing Punjabi wasps whose larvae eat the psyllids. You can see a picture here.
There is no known cure for HLB, and so the spread of the disease has killed or prompted the destruction of millions of acres of trees from China to Brazil to Florida.
More recently, crews are spraying trees at homes within about 400 meters of tree zero, hoping that does the trick.
There is a statewide quarantine barring movement of non-certified citrus trees out of Southern California, but home gardeners may not be aware of the regulations – or the threat to commercial growers nearby.
Look outside. If the leaves on your citrus trees are turning yellow while the veins turn dark green, it’s time to call the CDFA at 800-491-1899.