Citrus states battle against greening pests - The Packer

Citrus states battle against greening pests

10/11/2012 08:17:00 AM
Don Schrack

“We’ve seen about a 68% reduction in the finding of psyllids per block,” Rogers said, “and there are blocks where the psyllid population has been knocked back so much we can’t find any individual psyllids at all.”

California's proactive stance

California, which began to map an anti-psyllid/HLB game plan two years before the pest was discovered in the state, continues to be aggressive. In September, the Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Committee approved a fiscal 2013 budget of $15 million, mostly generated by growers, Hill said.

Growers also agreed to increase the per-box assessment from seven cents to nine cents, he said.

A buffer zone around the Los Angeles Basin, aimed at keeping psyllids from the desert, coastal and San Joaquin Valley growing regions remains a priority, Hill said.

California is raising millions of psyllid-killing wasps at Cal Poly-Pomona, with a plan for a mass release in the next 18 months, Hill said, and an urban outreach program has been expanded in multiple languages.

A combination of a broad spectrum pesticide and a systemic pesticide on infestations has proven effective, said Beth Grafton-Cardwell, University of California at Riverside Integrated Pest Management specialist, research entomologist and director of the Lindcove Research and Extension Center, Exeter.

“Treatments can be very, very effective in terms of knocking the psyllids down so low that you don’t find them for many months, even years,” Grafton-Cardwell said. “When groups of people, whether they be urban or commercial, agree on an area-wide program and act to suppress the psyllid, they can make a huge dent in the population.”

Organic fruit, however, still remains vulnerable, Grafton-Cardwell said. Treatments need to be applied every 10-14 days, because they don’t kill all the psyllids.

“So we really don’t have an organic solution to the Asian citrus psyllid problem.”

Researchers, however, are constantly testing new products on organic citrus.

While the pest and disease have devastated much of the Florida citrus industry, the scouting program has turned into a research tool, Rogers said.

“We’re actually able to look at real world situations, not small research plots, but commercial groves on a large scale,” Rogers said.

The psyllid monitoring and the CHMA program are giving the Florida industry the opportunity to validate some things that are coming out of the university’s research program, Rogers said.

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