Can you imagine California without the citrus trees? More than half of the homes in Southern California have a citrus tree in the yard, and the state is home to a $2 billion commercial citrus industry. Unfortunately, citrus trees in Poway and Ramona could disappear forever due to a dangerous insect that’s been found in the area.
The Asian citrus psyllid is a tiny pest that can carry a disease that kills citrus trees. Although not harmful to humans or animals, the plant disease known as Huanglongbing (HLB) is a death sentence for citrus. Infected trees produce bitter, hard, inedible fruit and eventually die. One of the main ways the disease spreads is by the Asian citrus psyllid, which can transmit the disease from tree to tree as it feeds on citrus leaves.
Although the disease has only been found in Los Angeles County, the Asian citrus psyllid can be found close to home. To date in 2013, there has been a discovery of the Asian citrus psyllid in the Poway and Ramona areas and a total of 1,350 finds in San Diego County. The best way to protect local citrus trees is to find and stop the Asian citrus psyllid from spreading the deadly HLB disease.
The Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program offers the following tips to help save local citrus trees:
- Inspect your trees. The Asian citrus psyllid is a small insect that can be difficult to spot, but all eyes should be on citrus to find and eliminate this insect from the community. Photos of the insect and disease symptoms can be found at CaliforniaCitrusThreat.org.
- Do not move citrus. Refrain from bringing citrus fruit or plants into the area from other parts of Southern California or from other states or countries, because it could accidentally be carrying the pest or disease. Similarly, do not remove citrus from your property. It is a kind gesture to gift homegrown fruit to a neighbor or relative, but doing so may inadvertently spread the Asian citrus psyllid or HLB.
- Protect against the pest. While HLB has no cure, there are products available that can help protect your trees from the Asian citrus psyllid. Contact your local nursery or home and garden center to ask for recommendations.
- Cooperate with agricultural inspectors. Since the psyllid and disease can be hard to detect and remove, agricultural inspectors may ask to inspect or treat your citrus trees. It’s critical homeowners cooperate with efforts to combat this pest and disease.
- Buy local. Only purchase citrus trees from reputable nurseries in your area to ensure you’re buying a healthy tree that has been inspected by authorities.
- Graft with care. Use only registered budwood with source documentation when grafting citrus trees.
- Report suspicious insects or diseases. Contact the San Diego County Agricultural Commissioner’s office or call the California Department of Food and Agriculture hotline at 800-491-1899 if you think you’ve found the psyllid or HLB disease.