Asian Citrus Psyllids causes problems for Valley growers

July 29, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Growers in the South Valley are bracing for another round of restrictions after a potentially devastating bug was found near Porterville.

Citrus growers were just starting to get their operations back to normal when six more Asian Citrus psyllids were found Southeast of Porterville. Four of the bugs were found in a trap on a citrus grove.

Ag officials have been scrambling to ensure Tulare County's citrus crop is safe after six Asian Citrus Psyllids were found on three different traps near Porterville. The tiny insect measures just millimeters, but has the potential to devastate an entire citrus crop, if carrying the disease "Huanglongbing" or Hlb.

"We're not happy that we've got three more traps psyllids were found on but our growers are taking this seriously and we've got treatments happening right now," said Marilyn Kinoshita the Tulare County Ag Commissioner.

Kinoshita is working with the California Department of Food and Agriculture to implement quarantine within a five mile radius of where the traps were found. Restrictions would be similar to the ones last fall, growers must spray or get rid of the fruit's leaves and stems.

"The citrus itself can move unrestricted but it's the leaf trash that we're deathly afraid of moving around the state," Kinoshita said.

Farmers like second generation citrus grower Phillip Giannetto are worried about the psyllid's threat to Tulare County.

"I Don't want them to get established out here. It's my livelihood farming and citrus and it's a pretty scary thing if the psyllid gets in this area for good," Giannetto said.

Giannetto will likely be treating the same crop he did last time, since last fall's restricted area and this summer's likely quarantine are within a few miles of each other. The costs are in the thousands of dollars.

"If we can just be proactive and get a hold of it and knock it down and maybe just deal with it like we do other pests," Giannetto said.

The CDFA will be out spraying insecticide on residential properties that have citrus trees. The spraying will happen on Wednesday. People can go to an informational meeting about the insect Monday night at Porterville City Hall from 5:30 p.m. - 7p.m.

Commercial growers will have a chance to meet with state officials to go over the quarantine Tuesday from 9 a.m. -12 a.m. at the Tulare Agri-Center.


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