Devastating citrus pest found in Central Valley orange grove
A flea-sized carrier of a deadly citrus disease has been found in the heart of California's commercial orange groves, and officials said they expect an immediate quarantine on moving trees and some fruit.
The Asian citrus psyllid spreads huanglongbing, a citrus disease with no known cure that has devastated crops in Florida, Brazil and China.
The psyllid was trapped last month in a commercial orchard near Strathmore, southeast of Visalia, and identified on Friday. It is only the second psyllid found in the Central Valley. The first was trapped in February about four miles from the new discovery.
The first psyllids arrived in Southern California in 2008, spreading heavily into the San Gabriel Valley and the neighborhoods near Dodger stadium. Officials monitored more than 10,000 traps testing for what they feared was the inevitable arrival of the disease.
In April they discovered the state's first documented case of huanglongbing in a tree in a Hacienda Heights yard. Officials launched an aggressive program of quarantine and pesticides to try to stop the disease from traveling north to California's $2-billion citrus industry in the Central Valley.
Neither insect found in the commercial groves was suitable for testing for the bacterial disease, and no trees have as yet shown signs of the sickness. Tulare County Agricultural Commissioner Marilyn Kinoshita told the Fresno Bee she expects state officials to announce a quarantine as early as Tuesday.
--Diana Marcum in Fresno
Photo: The Asian citrus psyllid has afflicted the citrus industry in Florida, Asia, the Middle East and other regions. Credit: Associated Press