Texas working with APHIS, California on citrus disease - The Packer

Texas working with APHIS, California on citrus disease

03/15/2012 09:31:00 AM
Don Schrack

“There has to be very systematic sampling process to ensure whether the tree is infected,” Hill said.

Organic fruit groves pose a particular challenge for the California citrus industry. Research entomologist Beth Grafton-Cardwell, director of the University of California Lindcove Research and Extension Center, has begun working on protocols in the event a psyllid infestation is found in an organic grove, Hill said.

The state and the committee have held discussions with leading organic grower-shippers and have proposed to the USDA a limited one year loss of certification if nonorganic chemicals must be used to eradicate the psyllids, he said. Organic certification in California requires a three year, nonchemical waiting period.

“Organic growers have been extremely cooperative,” Hill said. “They get it ... We’re planning to be here 20 years from now. We’re convinced we can beat this thing.”

Joel Nelsen, president of Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual, is getting similar feedback from organic grower-shippers.

“There’s a commitment from them to do what’s necessary to save the industry to the extent that they can and save their organic certification,” he said.

There are materials organic growers can use on the psyllids, but they are not as effective as the sprays available to conventional growers, Nelsen said.

“As a result, their spray program will be more frequent and more intensive — and more expensive,” he said.

Porterville-based Homegrown Organic Farms has joined the rest of organic grower-shippers in wholeheartedly supporting the efforts to rid the state of the psyllid and the potential for HLB, said Scott Mabs, director of marketing.

“We’re working with all of the stakeholders to work toward a solution,” he said.

That California has been able to confine psyllid infestations to Southern California for nearly four years is due in large measure to the industry’s self-imposed assessments of more than $15 million annually. The funds are used to match USDA dollars for trapping costs, to augment some treatment costs and for public education, Nelsen said.

“We have had greater than 99% cooperation from homeowners in Southern California,” said Robert Leavitt, acting director of the CDFA’s Plant Health and Pest Prevention Service.

Texas also is coughing up big dollars to protect the future of the industry.

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