Growers who wanted to move fruit out of the quarantine would first have to run it through a field-cleaning machine, which removes stems and leaves, or run it through brushes and rollers in a packinghouse within the quarantine, he said.
Field cleaning machines are rare in California’s Central Valley, and most were developed to handle fruit in Southern California and Arizona groves already under psyllid quarantines, he said.
Regardless of the method, the goal is to remove leaves and stems that might harbor hitchhiking psyllids before the fruit leaves the quarantine.
This requirement could pose hardships for growers used to selling mandarins into specialty markets that want leaves and stems attached, he said.
Blakely said he’s hopeful the Tulare County insects were just hitchhikers on illegal plant material from Southern California, where there’s an ongoing psyllid-control program and quarantine.
“What’s interesting about both of these finds is they were in traps that weren’t actually in trees but were on poles along a major highway where there’s a lot of fruit moving back and forth,” Blakely said. “There’s also fruit coming up from Southern California. It’s looking more like they were possibly brought into the area.”
Subsequent surveys and trapping of both groves by the ag commissioner’s office failed to find additional psyllids, he said.
Tulare County leads California in citrus production, with about 120,000 acres and a 2011 crop valued at more than $760 million, according to the ag commissioner’s annual crop report.