California: Psyllid numbers drop, threat remains

In Southern California, the number of citrus trees found infected with the fatal plant disease Huanglongbing continues to rise, but in the state's prime citrus-production area, fewer potentially disease-spreading insects are being trapped. Pest experts offer a number of possible reasons fewer Asian citrus psyllids have been identified in the sticky yellow traps.

Nick Condos of the California Department of Food and Agriculture said strict rules now in place for moving bulk citrus might be playing a part in the lower numbers. Jim Gorden, chairman of the California Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Committee, said time of the year could also be a factor.

A highly mobile insect, the Asian citrus psyllid can carry Huanglongbing (or HLB), a slow-moving, bacterial disease that reduces citrus fruit production and eventually kills the tree.

The only current defense against HLB is to control the psyllid, citrus organization leaders assert, noting that the organizations and UC researchers continue work on biological control and early detection of the disease.

Alyssa Houtby of the grower organization California Citrus Mutual said the Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Program is funded primarily by grower assessments. The program receives federal funds each year through a nationwide program funded by Congress. In fiscal year 2017-18, California received $14 million of the total program funding. State funding totaled $10 million. Legislative budget committees have approved the same funding level for the next fiscal year.


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