Although HLB has not yet been detected in a commercial citrus grove in California, growers have been provided with voluntary best management practices to limit the spread of HLB and the psyllids that transmit the disease. A study conducted by researchers at University of California (UC) Davis and UC Riverside, in collaboration with the Citrus Research Board, examined citrus growers’ willingness to adopt the practices, measured the impact the practices may have on operations, and more.
Through a series of questions, UC researchers assessed 160 citrus growers’ propensity to adopt the approved best practices. The research found that the proximity to a current HLB detection may influence the urgency with which a grower or industry member is willing to proactively prepare.
A majority (71%) of respondents thought that it was unlikely or very unlikely that an HLB-positive tree would be detected in their groves from July 2019 to June 2020. In a similar survey conducted in 2015, 26% of respondents thought that it was unlikely or very unlikely that an HLB-positive tree would be detected in their groves by 2020. This indicates that the majority believes the spread of HLB is not happening as fast as they thought it would four years ago.
Participants who perceived a higher likelihood of detecting HLB in the initial survey seemed to be more willing to scout, survey and test for HLB. In addition, the likelihood of a grower to stay informed and communicate with grower liaisons had a positive impact on the propensity to adopt the best practices.
Jim Gorden, chairman of the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Committee, suggested that growers follow the voluntary best practices and adhere to regulatory requirements. “As an industry, we must keep our foot on the accelerator to keep this devastating disease out of our orchards,” Gorden said. “As HLB continues to spread across residential areas throughout Southern California, we must remain proactive – even when things are quiet in our groves – to ensure we continue to stay on top of this elusive pest and disease.”
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