Tulare Co growers may have new psyllid option

FRESNO, Calif.

Restrictive areas were established after Asian Citrus Psyllids were found in Tulare County.

Growers are now in the final steps of treatment to ensure citrus products are safe.

Previously, citrus growers had to make sure the fruit was rid of all stems and leaves before it left a 5 mile restricted area. Now they have a new, cheaper option, to spray it with an insecticide.

Commercial citrus growers near where Asian Citrus Pysllids were found this fall will soon start treating their harvested citrus in mass quantities. The treatments are to protect them from the pest which, if it carries a bacterial disease called Huang Long Bing or HLB, has the potential to kill citrus trees.

At first growers were told they would only be able to ship fruit outside of the 5 mile restrictive areas where the psyllids were found if they got rid of all stems and leaves first. Now, they have a new option.

"We just got approval from CDFA and the USDA to allow our growers to have a treatment option which means within 7 days of harvest they're putting on an insecticide treatment," Tulare County Ag Commissioner Marilyn Kinoshita said.

The CDFA-approved insecticide is similar to what CDFA employees sprayed on residential properties earlier this month.

Growers say they would rather spray than rid each piece of fruit of its stems and leaves.

"It's also hard on the fruit because you're handling it more so it not only increases the cost it reduces the amount of packable fruit that that grower might have," Bob Blakely of California Citrus Mutual said.

Blakely says treating the citrus with an insecticide also betters their chances of permanently getting rid of any nearby Asian Citrus Psyllids.

"It will actually have an impact on the pest if there are in fact any psyllids out there that we haven't found treating will help reduce any of those remaining psyllids which is really what we want to do," Blakely said.

Ag officials hope this is the last step growers will have to take to protect their crops.

"There have been no new ACP finds. CDFA has been surveying and trapping in our county or weeks and there's been nothing found," Kinoshita said.

The CDFA will revisit this issue in six months, if no other psyllids are found in this area. The CDFA held a conference call Thursday for growers who have questions on the treatments they can take. There will be another one Friday morning at 10 a.m.

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