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CDFA calls for quasi citrus quarantine

CDFA calls for quasi citrus quarantine

Approximately 163-square miles in Tulare County will be restricted for the movement of citrus fruit and citrus plants, the California Department of Food and Agriculture announced yesterday.

The restrictions will encompass two zones, each with a five-mile radius surrounding sites were the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) was found near Lindsay/Strathmore and Terra Bella.

According to CDFA, the restrictions are not technically considered a quarantine.

“This is an interim step, permitted under state law, to establish protection against spread of the pest while CDFA and the Tulare County Agricultural Commissioner’s office continue to evaluate whether the detections are evidence of an established ACP population, or non-breeding hitchhikers brought into the corridor along State Highway 65 from infested counties in Southern California,” read a statement released by CDFA yesterday. Additional information, including maps of the restricted areas, is available at http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/plant/PE/InteriorExclusion/acp_restrictedareas.html .

The restrictions prohibit the movement of nursery stock out of the zones unless it has been grown in approved pest-resistant structures or “citrus screens.” Citrus fruit may move outside the zones if it has been commercially cleaned and packed, which includes the removal of stems and leaves. Any fruit that is not commercially cleaned and packed, including residential citrus, must not be removed from the property on which it is grown, although it may be processed and/or consumed on the premises.

Bob Blakely, director of industry relations with California Citrus Mutual, said the Exeter-based cooperative is calling it an “emergency eradication program.” He said growers will be required to spray pesticides in groves throughout the two zones. Growers will be encouraged to do their pesticide applications on the same days to create the broadest possible application. Blakely said there are some significant organic growers within the zones who have options for natural pest control methods but will have to do more frequent applications. CCM represents more than 1,400 citrus growers throughout the state.

“Our understanding is this will be in place for two years,” Blakely said. “If they find psyllids outside of the zones within that time we may be looking at a full-fledged quarantine.”

Exeter-based nurseries, such as McEwen Farms, TreeSource and Turner Nurserys are all located outside of the restricted zones. The Tulare County Agriculture Commissioner’s Office confirmed Asian citrus psyllids (ACP), a pest known to carry the deadly citrus disease huanglongbing (HLB) or citrus greening, were found in orchards outside of Strathmore on Nov. 19 and outside of Terra Bella on Nov. 21. The pests were found on traps actually designed to catch glassy-winged sharpshooters, a pest carrying the grape killing citrus canker disease. He said all traps are tested primarily for the grape best and then a second time for the citrus pest. A single psyllid was also found in an orchard southeast of Lindsay on Feb. 11.

“I really want to complement CDFA as they have taken the time to meet with people in the industry and get this right,” Blakely said. “The program they have devised really fits the situation here.”

Citrus greening, which is fatal to citrus, has not been detected in Tulare County and, to date, has been found at just one property in California – in Hacienda Heights, Los Angeles County. Huanglongbing is known to be present in Mexico and in parts of the southern U.S. Florida first detected the pest in 1998 and the disease in 2005, and the two have now been detected in all 30 citrus-producing counties in that state. The University of Florida estimates the disease has tallied more than 6,600 lost jobs, $1.3 billion in lost revenue to growers and $3.6 billion in lost economic activity. The disease is also present in Texas, Louisiana, Georgia and South Carolina. The states of Hawaii, Arizona, Mississippi and Alabama have detected the pest but not the disease.

The pest represents a serious threat to Tulare County’s overall economy, as citrus is the California’s No. 1 export and Tulare County is the state’s No. 1 citrus producing county. Tulare County is home to over 100,000 acres of citrus, 60 citrus packinghouses and four citrus juice plants. Tulare County citrus represents about $700 million annually of the state’s $1.88 billion industry.

The ACP was first detected in California in 2008 and is known to exist in Ventura, San Diego, Imperial, Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties. If Californians believe they have seen evidence of huanglongbing in local citrus trees, they are asked to please call CDFA’s toll-free pest hotline at 1-800-491-1899. For more information, visit: http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/plant/acp/ .

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