For the first time, an Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) carrying the bacteria which causes huanglongbing (HLB) was found in a commercial grove in Riverside County. While the discovery has prompted concern, University of California Riverside Extension Specialist Monique Rivera said that the find has been expected and is not all that surprising.
“We’ve had positive trees removed here in Riverside, and we’re not that far from LA. Eventually those two quarantine circles are likely to merge here in Southern California,” Rivera explained in an interview with AgNet West reporter Brian German. “So while it seems like a really big deal, in terms of the news cycle, I would say that this is not a surprising development, and I think we can expect to see more of it if there is more sampling done in commercial groves.”
Staff from the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) are following the ACP/HLB Action Plan to address the discovery. Rivera said she believes the ACP find could have happened sooner, but the emphasis had been on backyard trees instead of commercial operations. “I would say that the reason why maybe we haven’t seen this already is because CDFA is mostly responsible for sampling in backyards. So, they aren’t looking directly or systematically at commercial groves,” she said.
Despite the discovery of an infected ACP, there has yet to be a detection of HLB in a commercial grove. CDFA has been active in removing a total of approximately 1,800 HLB-infected trees from residential areas. With the disease inching closer to commercial groves, there are opportunities for more effort to be put into testing ACP found in commercial groves.
“It’s hard to ask CDFA to take responsibility for that completely because there are actually available resources for growers. They are just not maybe the best publicized,” said Rivera. “Maybe a grower having his grove, or her grove, sampled and then send off the samples to be tested could provide more information about what is going on.”
Growers can request PCR testing of ACP or plant samples from an accredited lab, such as the Citrus Pest Detection Program, which is operated by the Central California Tristeza Eradication Agency. CDFA will also collect samples for analysis at no cost to the grower.