The measure stops short of a full quarantine, but if another psyllid is found — it would be the fourth detection — that will trigger a two-year quarantine. The current restrictions will be in place for six months.
“It’s shorter in duration than a quarantine and encompasses a smaller area,” said Steve Lyle, spokesman for the California Department of Food and Agriculture. “It could be removed in six months if we don’t find additional psyllids.”
Growers affected by the interim measure must follow the same practices. Fruit can leave the area, but only after removal of leaves and stems. Nursery stock cannot leave the zones unless grown in pest-resistant structures. The limits typically prove more costly to nurseries than growers.
The two restricted areas in Tulare County each consist of a 5-mile radius around find sites in the Strathmore and Terra Bella areas. A 20-mile radius was weighed in earlier discussions.
The psyllids, which can carry citrus greening disease, were collected in traps there in October and November, respectively. Another trapping dates to December 2011.
“The question is whether the three psyllids detected in Tulare County are evidence of an established population or just some hitchhikers from counties that already have the psyllid,” Lyle said Dec. 4.
The affected area is about 163 square miles. A map can be downloaded.
CDFA also recommended that commercial growers — anyone with 25-plus trees per acre — treat groves before harvest, an eradication effort backed by Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual.
The goal is to stop development of a breeding population within the 200,000-acre San Joaquin Valley industry. Unlike recent Southern California finds, the psyllids in Tulare County were in an area of dense commercial plantings.
“We believe the 5-mile eradication target coupled with a strong recommendation for producers to spray within 800 meters of a detection is the appropriate mandate,” Joel Nelsen, president of the trade group, said in a news release. “The previously suggested 20-mile zone would exacerbate the spread of (the psyllid) in the opinion of the industry and eradication should be the goal, not control and not suppression.”
“The burden is on the industry,” Nelsen said in the release. “As long as producers cooperate in the eradication effort, CDFA will uphold their role in the partnership.”
Citrus greening disease — or HLB — has not been found in Tulare County. Psyllid findings are common in California, but only one case of HLB has been identified, in Hacienda Heights, Los Angeles County.
Traps will be checked throughout the six months of restrictions.
“If we find more we’ll move to a quarantine,” Lyle said.
CDFA is working with Kinoshita’s office and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
A Dec. 11 meeting in Tulare, Calif., will address the measures and answer questions. The meeting is set for 9 a.m. to noon at the International Agri-Center, in the Heritage Complex Auditorium on Laspina Street.
Speakers include Ted Batkin, president of the Citrus Research Board, and Marilyn Kinoshita, Tulare County agricultural commissioner. Information is available at 559-738-0246 or info@citrusresearch.