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.
Beth Grafton-Cardwell: Spread of Disease Must Be Prevented
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor
Collaborative changes are being made to combat the Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP). Beth Grafton-Cardwell is the director of Lindcove Research and Extension Center near Exeter, as well as a research entomologist with UC Riverside. She recently spoke at the 2019 Citrus Showcase in Visalia as a key speaker on the state of Huanglongbing (HLB) in California, with an overview of how to prevent ACP,—which vectors HLB, a fatal disease to citrus—from moving around the state.
“We were trying to communicate why we’ve made the changes we’ve made for the industry that has been a collaborative effort between CDFA, growers, and the university,” Grafton-Cardwell said. “We need better ways to prevent psyllids from moving around the state because they might have HLB in their bodies, and we’ve got to prevent the spread of the disease.”
The Florida citrus industry did not do a great job in containing the Psyllid, and now HLB is rampant in the state’s citrus industry, which has devastated the citrus economy there.
“Florida found that they did not do much to control psyllid movement, and they found that psyllids were moving in bulk citrus bins and retail nursery plants around the state, and within a concise amount of time, they spread the Psyllid and the disease everywhere,” Grafton-Cardwell said. “We’re trying to avoid that. We have 100% tarping of citrus truckloads. We have treatments that have to be done if growers want to move citrus between major zones in California, so that we can prevent that kind of movement.”
Conversations continue about quarantine areas in California to reduce spread.
“There’s been a lot of discussion regarding quarantines because it’s painful for some growers who have low Psyllid numbers to have to treat and to move their fruit to other zones.”
“There’s been a lot of questions. We did a lot of scientific analysis to look at impacts as well as numbers. It’s not just about psyllid numbers; it’s about their impact if growers were to move the disease into a high citrus growing region,” Grafton-Cardwell explained.
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.
World Ag Expo Seminar: Asian Citrus Psyllid and Huanglongbing – Regulatory Compliance Update and Treatment Protocol
If you’re attending the World Ag Expo, the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program encourages you to attend a seminar on Feb. 13 to learn about regulatory protocols relating to Asian citrus psyllid and Huanglongbing quarantines, the proper mitigation requirements for transportation of bulk citrus, and recommended treatment options for ACP in commercial citrus groves and residential citrus trees from industry experts.
During the seminar, Keith Okasaki of the California Department of Food and Agriculture will discuss the regulatory protocols for moving bulk citrus fruit in the state of California. Dr. Beth Grafton-Cardwell will discuss the University of California’s recommended treatment options for suppressing and controlling the Asian citrus psyllid in commercial citrus groves and residential citrus trees.
This seminar is free to attend with a World Ag Expo attendee ticket or exhibitor pass.
Asian Citrus Psyllid and Huanglongbing – Regulatory Compliance Update and Treatment Protocols Seminar
Wednesday, Feb. 13
Noon – 1 p.m.
Seminar Trailer 1 in the Seminar Center
The Seminar Center is near South Gate 15, at the corner of U Street and Expo Lane.
Recently, leading farm bill negotiators in the House and Senate announced that they have reached an “agreement in principle” signaling that a final deal will be made before the end of the year.
Included in the initial agreement is language providing $25 million per year for 5 years for research specific to the invasive insect Asian citrus psyllid and deadly plant disease Huanglongbing (HLB).
The Emergency Citrus Disease Research and Development Trust Fund will build upon the program created in the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) title in the 2014 Farm Bill, which dedicated research funding for citrus.
“The trust fund language is a significant win for U.S. citrus growers,” California Citrus Mutual President Joel Nelsen said. “It’s critical for the future of our industry and the domestic citrus market that we continue to invest in research aimed to find a solution for HLB.”
The Farm Bill funding specific to HLB research complements the $40 million per year program funded by California citrus growers to stop the spread of HLB, which has been detected in over 900 backyard citrus trees in Southern California. In recent years, the state of California has dedicated funds to augment ACP and HLB control efforts in urban areas, including the rearing and release of millions of beneficial insects in backyard citrus trees.
Negotiators have also agreed to maintain funding for the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program and the National Clean Plant Network (NCPN). Additionally, funding will continue for the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC) program, which helps growers overcome artificial trade barriers.
“On behalf of the California citrus industry, I want to thank the lead farm bill negotiators in both houses for their commitment to passing a Farm Bill that includes this vital funding for the U.S. citrus industry and specialty crops,” Nelsen said.
IR-4 Researchers Control Material to Help Citrus Industy
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor
Jerry Barron, executive director of the IR-4 Project at Rutgers University in New Jersey spoke to California Ag Today recently about his program.
A major priority with the IR-4 Project is the prioritization of projects that need to be done to find crop protection products for crops such as citrus. Among the urgent challenges for citrus is the control of the Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) which vectors Huanglongbing (HLB)—a fatal disease to citrus. Barron spoke about the disease, which has devastated Florida citrus growers and all parts of the citrus economy in the state.
“HLB is devastating Florida citrus growers and the economy in Florida. It’s about a billion dollars of lost production, which is affecting local communities, food processors, and the people who are harvesting the fruit,” Barron said. “It is totally disrupting the whole economic base of certain areas.”
“So what we’re trying to do is work with the people in Florida, to provide them some tools, not only to control the Psyllid which transmits the disease but also provide them some tools to help control the disease once it’s infected the plant.
“At this point, it’s very difficult because certain crop protection products are just not available, but we’re trying to find these magic bullets to truly give them a solution for this devastating problem,” he said.
HLB Funds To Be Used by the Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Program
Recognizing the importance of protecting California’s commercial citrus industry and backyard citrus trees, Governor Jerry Brown’s 2018-19 California state budget includes $12.5 million from the general fund dedicated to fighting an incurable citrus disease called Huanglongbing (HLB).
Signed last week, the funds will be used by the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program (CPDPP), a program primarily funded by California citrus growers and administered by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The CPDPP helps detect and eradicate Huanglongbing in residential areas, suppress Asian citrus psyllid populations, control the movement of the Asian citrus psyllid, enforce regulations, and fund outreach programs to homeowners, industry members and local governments.
While Governor Brown’s commitment to helping fight HLB is a step in the right direction, California citrus is at a crossroads. More than 685 cases of Huanglongbing have been detected in California, with more than 350 detections in 2018 alone, all in urban areas of Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties.
Intense Inspections of Urban Citrus Trees Continue
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor
Joel Nelsen is president and CEO of California Citrus Mutual, based in Exeter. He told California Ag Today recently that there is an “active plan to look for trees harboring Asian Citrus Psyllids (ACP) infected Huanglongbing (HLB) trees in urban areas because we’re looking for nobody else across this country, let alone in the southern hemisphere, to look for infected trees in the urban area. Mexico and Brazil didn’t do it. We’re doing it.”
The hope is that they find HLB and stop it there.
“Commercial growers are under tight testing programs to combat the Asian Citrus Psyllid. As far as it relates to commercial growers, we’re doing enough trapping that we’re not finding what we call hot spots of Asian Citrus Psyllids,” Nelsen said. “Secondarily and most importantly, we have a very strict clonal protection program, so growers are only allowed to access trees after they’ve gone through a rigorous testing program at both the nursery and the rootstock from the university.”
Nelsen said that the chances of a grower introducing the insect into an area is rather slim; it’s more often likely that the disease will be introduced to a grove.
Testing is random and more lab space is needed.
“Most of it’s been random because it is an intensive program. We’re analyzing roughly 20,000 leaves and twigs every month,” Nelsen explained. “We’re analyzing several thousand ACP every month. In fact, our lab capacity is capped, and one of the discussions that we’re having is to identify what labs can do what and whether or not we need to expand the number of labs doing business.”
“So we are looking at additional lab space, and in fact, we have already contracted with the University of Arizona Lab in Tucson and maybe we’ll consider using private labs to do the initial work,” Nelsen said. “Now, they’re not going to be able to confirm whether or not an ACP is there, but they go in and evaluate that twig or green waste waste and if in fact there is a suspicion, then you send in the California Department of Food and Agriculture folks.”
President-Elect Trump May Help Make California Agriculture Great Again!
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
The election of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States may prove very significant for California. He and his future administration may be able to make sense of the devastating water deliveries diverted from California farms to protect fish species that may already have become extinct, in order to comply with the Endangered Species Act.
Joel Nelsen, president, California Citrus Mutual and a leader in California agriculture, is encouraged by the election results. “You know, the Donald Trump election was a bit of a surprise to me. You can always hope, but the numbers did not look that good. Now that he is our president-elect, I think we can be somewhat optimistic about the next Congress and this next administration,” Nelsen said.
Nelsen said the optimism is going to be on several fronts. “One, I think we have an opportunity now to move water legislation that contains real storage and creates water for a bigger population in California,” he said.
“We also have an opportunity to slow down a rogue agency—which I would call Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—and their activity specific to crop protection tools. We can get an effort going to modernize the Endangered Species Act. Nobody wants to eliminate species, but let’s face it, when that was first signed and passed, it was two generations ago. I think we need to take another look at that,” he said.
Nelsen noted there are some opportunities on the horizon. He hopes the upcoming Congress and new presidential administration will generate some positive activity for the California agriculture industry .
Nelsen and other California ag leaders will soon return to Washington to make sure things are getting done. “A couple of us are going back next week for the lame-duck session because we are hoping Congress will pass a budget that will fund the Asian Citrus Psyllid and Huanlongbing program,” he said. “There is no money for it in the USDA budget. As a result, the support at the federal level is less than what it could be or should be.”
“Because the current administration is going to be in office until January 19, 2017, the activists have until then to get things moving in a direction that cannot be stopped from their perspective. I don’t think these next two months will necessarily be quiet.”
“We must have a mindset that others will attempt to do what they think cannot be done. It will be up to many of us in leadership positions to ensure that there’s still a balanced approach with this administration before the next one comes in,” Nelsen said.
ASIAN CITRUS PSYLLID (ACP) QUARANTINES IN MERCED AND MONTEREY COUNTIES
Quarantines are now in place in both Merced and Monterey Counties due to recent Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) detections. One ACP was detected near the City of Merced in Merced County and two ACP in one trap within the City of Salinas in Monterey County.
The quarantine zone in Merced County measures 123 square miles, bordered on the north by Kenney Avenue; on the south by W Dickenson Ferry Road; on the west by Shaffer Road; and on the east by
E Yosemite Avenue. Monterey County’s quarantine measures 111 square miles and is bordered on the north by Pesante Road; on the south by the Salinas River; on the west by Castroville Road; and on the east by Gabilan Creek. The quarantine maps for both Merced and Monterey Counties are available online at: www.cdfa.ca.gov/go/acp-maps. Please check this link for future quarantine expansions in these counties, should they occur. Quarantines in new counties will be announced separately.
The quarantine prohibits the movement of citrus and curry leaf tree nursery stock, including all plant parts except fruit, out of the quarantine area and requires that all citrus fruit be cleaned of leaves and stems prior to moving out of the quarantine area. An exception may be made for nursery stock and budwood grown in USDA-approved structures which are designed to keep ACP and other insects out. Residents with backyard citrus trees in the quarantine area are asked not to transport or send citrus fruit or leaves, potted citrus trees, or curry leaves from the quarantine area.
ACP county-wide quarantines are now in place in Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura Counties, with portions of Alameda, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, Monterey, San Benito, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Stanislaus counties also under quarantine.
The ACP is an invasive species of grave concern because it can carry the disease huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening. All citrus and closely related species, such as curry leaf trees, are susceptible hosts for both the insect and disease. There is no cure for HLB and once a tree becomes infected, the diseased tree will decline in health and produce bitter, misshaped fruit until it dies. In California, HLB has only been detected on residential properties in Los Angeles County. This plant disease does not affect human health.
Residents in the area who think they may have seen ACP or symptoms of HLB on their trees are urged to call CDFA’s Pest Hotline at 1-800-491-1899 or your local agricultural commissioner’s office (Merced County (209) 385-7431; Monterey County (831) 759-7325). For more information on the ACP and HLB, please visit: www.cdfa.ca.gov/go/acp.