Ag Today July 27, 2017

Fatal citrus tree disease continues to spread in California


By Robert Rodriguez, The Fresno Bee

A fatal citrus disease that has citrus growers on edge continues its deadly path through Southern California, this time infecting a tree in Riverside County, state and federal officials confirmed.

The recent discovery of the disease, called Huanglongbing, or HLB, has increased the level of concern among agriculture officials who have been fighting for years to keep the disease from infecting commercial citrus growing areas, including those in the San Joaquin Valley.

The disease is passed from tree to tree by the Asian citrus psyllid, a tiny insect that feeds on citrus leaves and stems. Once a tree is infected, it will eventually die. And there is no cure. It has decimated the citrus industry in Florida and other parts of the world.

Perhaps residential citrus trees are more susceptible to getting the disease. Since the discovery of the state’s first case of HLB in Hacienda Heights in 2012, about 60 residential citrus trees have tested positive for the disease. The trees, all in Los Angeles and Orange counties, were removed.

This is Riverside County’s first case of HLB. An infected grapefruit tree was found in a neighborhood near the city of Riverside. The tree was pulled and crews are expected to apply pesticides to other citrus trees within 800 feet of the find.

“The discovery of this disease means all citrus trees are at risk — including homegrown trees enjoyed by residents and thousands of acres of trees cared for by citrus farmers,” said Ruben Arroyo, Riverside County agricultural commissioner/sealer. “It’s important for residents, growers and agricultural officials to work together to quickly find this disease and stop its spread.”

Arroyo urged all residents to visit to review symptoms of the disease and report disease sightings.

Although Fresno and Tulare counties have found the Asian citrus psyllid, the disease has so far not been detected.