State holds meeting in Visalia to let public know about spraying for a citrus pest

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The state put on a public meeting in Downtown Visalia Thursday night to let people know they will be spraying for the Asian Citrus Psyllid. (KFSN)

The state put on a public meeting in Downtown Visalia Thursday night to let people know they will be spraying for the Asian Citrus Psyllid insect in affected areas.

There have been 20 finds of ACP in Tulare County since April 1st. The vector can carry huanglongbing, the disease that decimated the citrus industry in Florida, and has been found in Southern California.

Ten insects were recently discovered in a trap at a juice plant in Tipton. One was located in Terra Bella, the others spread around Tulare and Visalia.

The disease hasn't reached the Central Valley yet, but Research Entomologist Beth Grafton-Cardwell says it will eventually spread to the commercial citrus industry.

The key will be keeping it contained to Southern California.

"The more psyllids you have, the more likely the bacteria is going to arrive so it's very, very important to keep the psyllid down low enough that it can't find that bacteria and start spreading it," Grafton-Cardwell said.

"So far, based on what has been found, we've lucked out," said Tulare County Agricultural Commissioner Marilyn Kinoshita. "But it's a very serious problem, we need everybody's cooperation."

That includes cooperation from citrus growers and those in the wholesale nursery business. Both groups are getting a brush up on some proposed changes during public meetings put on by the state in Tulare.

A new regional quarantine zone approach was discussed, as well as the need for a stricter transport process. Right now, growers spray the crop before the harvest. But when dealing with bulk shipments, there's plenty of room for error, and ACP still occasionally shows up.

But if there's any bright side, it's that the California citrus industry has been proactive about finding the bug, and fighting the outbreak of disease.

"Because you've got all these layers, there's a good chance that California is going to be able to extend that curve out and have a longer delay before the major catastrophe sort of sets in," said Aaron Dillon, a Watsonville Nurseryman.

The state will be holding another meeting about ACP and the proposed regulation changes for nurseries and growers.

It starts at 9 a.m. Thursday at the Tulare County Agricultural Commissioner's Office.

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