Appetizers
May 24, 2010
Public asked to be on the lookout for citrus pest

Invasive Species.jpg

The Asian Citrus Psyllid (that nasty looking thing pictured above) has already wrecked Florida's citrus industry, and California could be next. The California Citrus Research Board is asking the public to be on the lookout for this tiny bug which feeds on citrus leaves and stems.

The bug itself is just about one-eighth-inch long, but are carriers of a bacterial disease called Huanglongbing. Once infected, citrus trees risk discoloration of leaves or will die altogether. The Asian Citrus Psyllid has been detected in southern California and Texas, and could just be a matter of time before they reach central and northern California's citrus country.

So, what to look for?

"The psyllid looks like a tiny kind of black thorn, and usually found on the underside of leaves," said Ted Batkin, president of the California Citrus Research Board. "The pest likes to feed at a 45 degree angle. So if you turn a leaf over and see all these black spots that look like thorns, call your county agricultural commissioner."

Batkin estimates that Florida's lost 20 percent of its citrus acreage since the pest was detected. California contains some 300,000 acres of commercial citrus groves, and a citrus industry worth $1.1 billion. The pest has a tendency to infest urban areas before reaching farm country, and so far 100 acres in southern California have been treated for Asian Citrus Psyllid.

"This is a business threat as well as a homeowner's threat," said Batkin. "What we're trying to do is get ahead of those invasions as they move north."

For more information: www.californiacitrusthreat.org

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