Fighting ACP in California

Fighting ACP In California to Stay Well Ahead of HLB

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor

With more than 275,000 acres of citrus trees in California, keeping the Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) out of groves is a serious concern. Bob Blakely, vice president of California Citrus Mutual, based in Exeter, talked to California Ag Today about how growers are fighting ACP in California.

“We’ve been very proactive, ever since the first psyllid was found here back in 2008. We already had an action plan in place when that psyllid was found. We have engaged with and educated the public and the media, and we have very good cooperation with the state’s citizens,” Blakely said.

Tamarixia radiata (female)
Tamarixia radiata (female); Mark Lewis, UC Riverside Center for Invasive Species Research

Blakely noted the industry is using a variety of methods, “We are usually able to go in and treat urban areas in Southern California, where ACP is now endemic, with crop protection materials. If we determine we cannot control it with pesticides, we implement a new biological program by releasing the parasitoid Tamarixia (a tiny non-native wasp) in residential areas. The new wasp is becoming well-established, and we are hoping the species will help manage ACP populations.”

“We hope to prevent ACP from creating the type of damage seen in Florida, where the citrus industry has been reduced by 50%,” said Blakely. “We are way ahead of the game here in California. We have managed to slow ACP spread in commercial areas in order stay ahead of the spread of the HLB disease the bug carries. We hope a reasonable cure can be found so we can prevent the kind of devastation we are witnessing in some other states.”

ACP Devastates Florida Citrus

ACP Devastates Florida Citrus Industry; California Continues Vigilance

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor

 

California Citrus growers must not underestimate the potential damage from Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP), according to Bob Blakely, vice president, California Citrus Mutual, based in Exeter.

Given multiple ACP detections in California this year, Blakely used Florida’s ACP catastrophe as an example of how devastating the pests can be. “We are challenged here in California with ACP,” Blakely began, “which vectors the fatal disease known Honglongbing, (HLB), also known as citrus greening. But, it is nothing like what they are dealing with in Florida, since HLB [the disease itself] was discovered there less than ten years ago. “Florida’s citrus acreage, which measured just under 1 million acres prior to the calamities they’ve been facing,” said Blakely, “has been reduced by almost 50%.”

Bob Blakely, VP, California Citrus Mutual
Bob Blakely, VP, California Citrus Mutual

While occurrences of Citrus Canker Disease as well as urbanization also contributed to the reduction in acreage, Blakely stated, “the big killer, citrus greening, is mostly responsible for the reduction of citrus acreage to the lowest level in decades.”

Because Florida has become so infested with ACP and HLB, reestablishing the industry there will take some time. “They are replanting and trying to replant healthy trees,” Blakely explained, “but they know those trees are short-lived compared to trees in California. We have hundred year-old groves. Florida farmers are just hoping to raise those trees and get a few years of production out of them before HLB re-infects them and they must be replaced again,” said Blakely.

Citrus Growers Determined to Succeed

Frustrated Citrus Growers Are Determined to Succeed

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor

While farmers have been dealing with some tough times, Bob Blakely, vice president of California Citrus Mutual is optimistic about future generations of citrus growers, “Perceptions and attitudes are really all over the board; we’ve got growers who are really frustrated and ready to throw it in. But most growers are staying in, thinking they can still makeSaveOurCitrus it in the citrus industry.”

“California growers are known for their tenacity in the face of challenges,” Blakely commented.  “It’s exciting to see young farmers come on, even though they continue to fight the regulatory battles and higher farming costs. But these young guys have the same determination the prior generation had when they started. So, I am optimistic about the future of the citrus industry in California.”

One of the major threats to citrus is the Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) and its potential to spread the disease Huanglongbing (HLB), as it has in Florida and Texas. “We are very concerned about the recent HLB finds. Here again, they have been discovered in residential areas, which is no iPhone Save Our Citrus Appsurprise to us. That is typically where diseases first show up. At the present time, the ACP are contained. We are starting to delimit that area, and residents are very cooperative in allowing those trees to be removed.”

Download the Save Our Citrus App

There is now an iPhone app to help California residents identify signs of the Asian citrus psyllid and HLB, and easily report findings to agriculture officials. Download the free app in the iTunes store.

Farmers protect citrus crop from freezing weather

By Steve Adler; Ag Alert

San Joaquin Valley citrus, which last year suffered multimillion-dollar losses due to freeze, escaped a similar fate at the turn of the new year, even though temperatures dropped to well below freezing.

The entire state felt the impact of a cold front that moved through California from Canada, and it was a particular concern in the citrus belt that extends north from Kern County to Madera County.

Cold temperatures prevailed throughout citrus-growing areas for six nights, prompting growers to activate their frost-protection measures. California Citrus Mutual said groves in Riverside, Kern, Tulare, Fresno and Madera counties all experienced temperatures dropping to 26-29 degrees for short durations.

CCM President Joel Nelsen said there could be “isolated areas of damage” to mandarin groves, particularly to trees and fruit farthest from wind machines, but he said any losses “should not affect volume or price significantly.”

The two primary citrus crops grown in the citrus belt are navel oranges and mandarins. Of the two, navels are more cold-tolerant and typically become vulnerable to frost only when temperatures drop below 28 degrees for several hours or for several nights in a row. Mandarins, on the other hand, can suffer freeze damage once temperatures dip below 32 degrees.

Any damaged fruit that won’t pass quality standards to go into the fresh market would go to processing, said Bob Blakely, CCM vice president.

The current citrus harvest began a few weeks ago, and an estimated 75 percent of the fruit remained on the trees when the cold weather began. Growers use wind machines or irrigation systems, or a combination of both, as frost-protection measures. By irrigating, growers can elevate the ground temperature slightly. Wind machines help to keep the air moving, breaking up pockets of cold air that can create problems.

Citrus Mutual estimated there are more than 22,000 wind machines throughout the citrus belt, most of which operate on propane. The organization estimated Monday that farmers had spent more than $16.5 million on frost-protection measures during the six-night freeze operation.

Given the drought situation, Nelsen said, most growers remained “very judicious” in using groundwater for frost protection.

“Our information is that pumping groundwater has been minimal,” he said.

One of the most water-starved areas is Terra Bella in Tulare County, where many farmers bought emergency water at high prices last summer to keep citrus trees from dying in the drought. Many of those growers have a little bit of that water left, and said they were using it to protect their groves from frost.

“On our farm, we bought some emergency water last summer and we still have some of that available to us until February,” said Roger Everett, a citrus grower in Terra Bella, “so we are using that water that we have left for frost protection. Growers who didn’t buy any of that water probably don’t have any water available for frost protection.”

Everett said it has been his experience that citrus trees are able to tolerate the cold fairly well, but the fruit can be vulnerable. Blakely of CCM agreed with that assessment.

“In California, it is typically a case of lost fruit rather than a killing of the trees,” he said. “Our conditions here in this state are such that in the wintertime we have enough cold temperatures where the trees can go into a quasi-dormancy, where they can withstand quite low temperatures before we have any damage to the fruiting wood.”

The freezing temperatures came just over a year from a December 2013 freeze that caused an estimated $441 million in citrus losses.

Consumer demand for navels has been quite good, bringing “decent” prices to farmers, Blakely said.

“Prices were higher a few weeks ago, but we are starting to see them come off a little bit. Consumer acceptance of the fruit has been very good and demand has remained steady. Movement in the domestic market last year was actually higher than it was in the previous year. In the wintertime, there really aren’t any other producing areas that are providing navel oranges to the United States. However, if there is an event that causes a reduction in the California crop, some of that market could possibly be taken up by some of the European mandarins,” he said.

San Joaquin Valley citrus wasn’t the only crop or region that faced potential crop losses due to the freezing weather. Temperatures of below 32 degrees were recorded in the Coachella Valley as well as the desert areas of the Imperial Valley and Yuma, Ariz. The cold temperatures caused some reported production losses to all varieties of lettuce as well as to spinach. As a result, customers might see some short-term shortages in the next couple weeks, farmers and shippers said.

The Coachella and Imperial valleys and the Yuma area produce about 90 percent of the nation’s winter vegetables. Cold weather slows plant growth and delays the daily harvest activity until the plants begin to thaw in late morning or early afternoon.

China re-opens market to California citrus

Source: FreshFruitPortal.com

Industry sources have told www.freshfruitportal.com that China has officially granted access to California citrus after a 15-month absence.

California Citrus Mutual vice president Bob Blakely said he received official notification from the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Friday, and was very pleased the sector could regain what was its third-largest market until April, 2013.

“There was a delegation that came over and visited the California industry in the first week of July, to see what our industry was doing to satisfy their concerns, and in those meetings the language [of a protocol] was discussed and further refined, and agreements were made in principle,” Blakely said, adding the main concern was phytophthora root rot.

“Originally they were looking to have additional sampling or something done that wasn’t practical, because it would not have mitigated the problem.

“Once they came here and saw how our fruit was produced and the conditions in the field, they realized that some of those things they put in there weren’t clear in their understanding, and that wasn’t necessary.”

He said clearer language was then put in place about how growers wishing to export ought to manage trees and the harvest to make sure the disease was not present in China-bound fruit.

After these agreements were agreed, he highlighted “the way was clear” for a market re-opening and official documents were signed in the last week of July.

The executive added the first fruit would likely be sent in December, following the Navel harvest which kicks off in November.

California Citrus Quality Council president Jim Cranney also mentioned the main export season would start in the fall or winter, but there would be some volumes of Valencia oranges and lemons ready to go now if shippers wished to exploit the newfound option.

“The market has been re-opened effective yesterday, and we’re very pleased to see this after such a long time out of the market, and that we’ll be able to send citrus again,” Cranney said.

“We’re looking forward to getting back a normal pace of trade with China.”

He said it was necessary to recognize the positive efforts from APHIS and China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ).

“It’s important to emphasize the job APHIS did by being proactive and how they worked together with the authorities from China, their partners at AQSIQ.

“It’s also important to recognize that AQSIQ did a good job in assessing the technical package we sent and we’re very happy that we meet their expectations.”