A countywide quarantine has been imposed on Ventura County, one of California’s major citrus growing regions, following the discovery of a second Asian citrus psyllid.
“We always thought it could happen, that it could move up the coast from the Los Angeles area,” said Bob Blakely, director of industry relations for Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual. “It’s one of our fears being realized.”
An infestation of psyllids was discovered for the first time in the state more than two years ago near San Diego. Since then, there have been numerous findings in urban areas, but joint treatment efforts by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the Visalia-based Citrus Research Board had kept the pest out of commercial groves.
What is troublesome about the latest Ventura County find is that it was located near Santa Paula, about 20 miles from a mid-December discovery of a psyllid in a small grove on the coast.
While these psyllid finds are the first in the county, the timing is good for the industry, Blakely said.
“Lemons are harvested year-round in Ventura County, but if they have a down time it’s now,” he said.
Another advantage is that both discoveries were in commercial groves, which will permit the Citrus Research Board to escalate quickly its program of setting traps and treating the trees, Blakely said. The board is under contract with the state to deal with psyllids found in commercial groves.
Fruit harvested in Ventura County does not need to be cleaned before it is trucked to packinghouses within the county.
“But any fruit harvested there and shipped to the San Joaquin Valley for packing will require the fruit to be washed before it’s transported,” Blakely said.
The Department of Food and Agriculture, which is charged with monitoring urban areas, will also set out more traps, Blakely said.
The Ventura County quarantine also includes more than 300 square miles of southern Santa Barbara County, including the city of Santa Barbara.
Psyllid finds in urban areas during the past two years have resulted in quarantines in parts of San Diego, Imperial, Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
To date, none of the psyllids found in California has tested positive for huanglongbing, citrus greening disease.