Deadly Citrus Tree Pest Found For First Time In Bay Area

SANTA CLARA COUNTY (CBS SF) — The California Department of Food and Agriculture detected the first incidence in the Bay Area of the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) Oct. 6. The pest causes a disease that kills citrus trees.

Much of the threat is to citrus trees in residential areas since much of California’s citrus industry is located outside of the Bay Area, according to the CDFA.

As a result, the department is quarantining an area in Santa Clara County, where the pest was found earlier this month, according to a department news release and Steve Lyle, director, CDFA public affairs office.

“It’s not just a commercial threat,” Lyle said of the disease, which has no affect on humans.

“The disease is what we’re really worried about,” Lyle said.

Because the infested area is small, the CDFA is hoping to eliminate the pest rather than simply control its spread.

Lyle couldn’t say how much citrus is grown by homeowners in the Bay Area, but anecdotally citrus grown in Bay Area yards is quite common, he said.

Joel Nelsen, president, California Citrus Mutual, a nonprofit citrus growers association, echoed Lyle’s comments about the impact on homeowners in affected area. Nelsen said homeowners will be asked to help stop the spread of the pest before it infects trees.

The CDFA is asking residents of the quarantine area to avoid transporting citrus fruit or leaves, potted citrus trees and leaves of the curry tree from the quarantined area. The psyllids can infect citrus trees and related species such as curry trees.

Lyle said the disease has been detected only once in California. That was in Los Angeles County two years ago.

The pest was first found in the United States in 1998 in Palm Beach County, Florida, according to information on CDFA’s website. ACPs were first found in California August 27, 2008, according to the same website.

The 99-square-mile area under quarantine is bordered by Alum Rock Park in the north, by Santa Teresa Boulevard in the south, by North Monroe Street in the west and by Joseph D. Grant County Park in the east.

“The ACP is an invasive species of grave concern because it can carry the disease huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening,” says CDFA’s release. “There is no cure once a tree becomes infected, the diseased tree will decline in health and produce bitter, misshaped fruit until it dies.”

What can you do to protect California citrus trees from this threat?

  • Do not move citrus plants, plant material or fruit in or out of a quarantine area or across state or international borders.
  • Plant trees from reputable, licensed California nurseries.
  • Inspect trees for the Asian citrus psyllid and HLB monthly, and whenever watering, spraying, pruning or tending trees.
  • Dry or double bag plant clippings prior to disposal.
  • As part of your tree care, visit your local nursery or garden center to get advice on products that can help protect your citrus.
  • Use only registered budwood that comes with source documentation.

More tips from the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program 

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© Copyright 2014 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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