Learning From the Florida Industry as to How Bad it Can Be
By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor
The severe effects of the Huanglongbing (HLB) disease on Florida citrus is cause for California growers to take important preventative measures to ensure the safety of their trees. Keith Watkins, vice president of outside operations for Bee Sweet Citrus, has seen the damage firsthand and has been hard at work to protect his trees.
“I’ve been to Florida, and I’ve seen how devastating the disease can be,” he said. “We have to spend money now to basically prevent that from happening to us.”
There are currently around 1100 trees that have tested positive for HLB in the Orange County and Anaheim-Garden Grove areas, but they are mainly backyard citrus trees. Luckily, Watkins said that the disease has not yet been traced in commercial operations.
Keeping HLB out of commercial growth is the biggest challenge growers face. There is not yet a cure for the disease, but according to Watkins, growers can help prevent it from reaching their crops by staying on top of killing psyllids when spotted. “We have to stay diligent. Our future really is maintaining a psyllid free population,” he said.
Continuing to Fight For Citrus Industry’s Longevity Requires Teamwork
By Jim Gorden, Committee Chair, Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention
For more than two centuries, citrus has grown strong in California’s yards and groves—serving as a source of nourishment, income, and tradition for many different individuals—but the citrus industry is at risk due to Huanglongbing’s (HLB) growing presence in California.
In 2018, HLB was found in more than 600 residential citrus trees in Southern California, and despite the program’s thorough surveying efforts, HLB has not been found in a commercial grove, but we must continue to hold strong. It has never been more important for all of us— including the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program (CPDPP), regulatory authorities, the citrus industry, the scientific community, and others—to work together to prevent the spread of the disease and save California’s citrus industry.
While much has changed since the citrus industry came together ten years ago to support the creation of the CPDPP, one constant remains: the program’s dedication to fighting HLB. This year, the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Committee (CPDPC) created a strategic plan for combatting HLB now and in the future. The plan identified five prioritized strategies to achieve CPDPP’s goals of keeping HLB out of commercial groves, limiting Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) movement in the state and fine-tuning the program. In addition, the program agreed to align its annual budget in support of the strategies, which can be viewed in this report.
With this plan comes additional responsibilities for all individuals involved. The CPDPC understands HLB isn’t the only issue posing a threat to your business and our industry – but it’s one we can’t ignore. This report highlights the many activities the program and our partners are doing across the state to protect commercial groves from HLB, but we are only as strong as our weakest link.
Looking forward, much is at stake for California citrus growers, packers and workers as the industry faces its biggest threat yet in HLB. I encourage you to connect with the program, your local pest control district, or task force, and follow best practices for managing the ACP and HLB. If we sit idle, hoping others will take action for our benefit, we are welcoming this devastating disease into our groves.
But, by working together, we can protect California’s commercial citrus industry from devastation—sustaining our livelihood and the legacy of California citrus.
For more information on the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program Click here.
California citrus growers soon will receive a critical citrus referendum ballot from the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) asking them to vote on continuing the work of the Citrus Research Board (CRB) for the next five years.
The grower-funded and grower-directed CRB was chartered nearly 50 years ago to enable California citrus growers to sponsor and support needed research that industry members otherwise would be unable to individually fund or access on their own. The Board’s mission is to ensure a sustainable California citrus industry for the benefit of growers by prioritizing, investing in and promoting sound science.
Some key areas funded include general production research, a variety improvement research program, a quality assurance program on agricultural chemical residues, and pest and disease control activities. Currently, disease control is crucially important.
The California citrus industry is now in the fight of its life to prevent the spread of the devastating disease huanglongbing (HLB) from California’s orchards.
HLB already has decimated most other major citrus growing regions, including Florida.
In California, HLB so far only has been found in 40 residential trees in Los Angeles; however, unless researchers are able to find a solution, HLB could gain a foothold in the state’s commercial groves. Currently, the CRB is dedicating its primary research efforts to controlling the spread of HLB and eradicating the disease. The Board is beginning to see some promising results; but without the CRB, much valuable research will go unfunded.
“We urge all citrus growers to vote when they receive their ballots from the CDFA,” CRB President Gary Schulz said. “Citrus is important to our state’s economy, employment, health and positive identity. We are proud to proactively protect and sustain the world’s largest fresh citrus market. The work that our researchers are conducting is vital to sustaining the California citrus industry and ensuring its continued success.”
The CRB administers the California Citrus Research Program, the grower funded and grower-directed program established in 1968 under the California Marketing Act as the mechanism enabling the State’s citrus producers to sponsor and support needed research. More information about the Citrus Research Board may be found at www.citrusresearch.org.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture crews conducting intensive, risk-based surveys detected eight citrus trees confirmed to be infected with Huanglongbing. All trees were in the core area of San Gabriel where HLB has previously been detected. This brings the total number of HLB-positive trees in California to 46.
CDFA routinely conducts HLB surveys throughout the state based on a risk model that considers factors that may make an area more likely to have a presence of the disease. CDFA has further fine-tuned this approach by increasing the number of samples pulled from citrus trees that are considered high risk. This strategic approach – developed by the CDFA lead diagnostician with input from the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program and leading scientific researchers – has helped pinpoint infected trees.
State and local crews are building relationships with residents in the area, which not only helps gain access to properties, but also results in swift removal of trees identified as having HLB. While removal of diseased trees is mandatory, positive homeowner relationships encourage cooperation. Of the eight trees recently detected, seven have already been removed or been scheduled for removal by CDFA. Crews are contacting the property owner of the remaining citrus tree Tuesday, March 28, and will pursue quick removal.
In 2016, CDFA collected nearly 50,000 plant samples and nearly 80,000 Asian citrus psyllid samples to test for HLB. Since sample collection began in 2008, more than 400,000 plant and psyllid samples have been collected and processed. This diligent work has contributed to quick detection and eradication of diseased trees.
As a part of the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program, CDFA will continue surveying and sampling the area for HLB and keep the industry abreast of finds as they occur.