Agriculture

Citrus pest turns up in Modesto

The Asian citrus psyllid can carry an incurable disease called huanglongbing, also known as citrus greening. It makes trees produce bitter, misshapen fruit and eventually die.
The Asian citrus psyllid can carry an incurable disease called huanglongbing, also known as citrus greening. It makes trees produce bitter, misshapen fruit and eventually die. University of Florida

The state has placed the Modesto area under quarantine for the Asian citrus psyllid, which threatens backyard trees here and commercial groves to the south.

Officials urge people to not move oranges, lemons and other citrus out of the 97-square-mile zone, which takes in parts of Ceres and Salida, plus rural land north and west of Modesto.

“We would implore the community to just consume their citrus on their property,” Milton O’Haire, agricultural commissioner for Stanislaus County, said Monday.

His staff detected a single psyllid in a residential lemon tree near North Ninth Street and Coldwell Avenue, prompting the quarantine in a roughly five-mile radius.

It is the third quarantine the California Department of Food and Agriculture has ordered for the county. The others were placed last year around Turlock, including part of northern Merced County, and Oakdale. Others are in effect around Manteca, Tracy and Lodi.

The tiny insect can carry an incurable disease called huanglongbing, also known as citrus greening. Infected trees produce bitter, misshapen fruit and eventually die.

The disease has reduced the Florida citrus industry by 75 percent, costing $7.8 billion in income and 8,000 jobs since 2007, an official said at a May hearing in Sacramento.

Huanglongbing threatens to do the same in the major growing regions from Madera to Kern counties and in Southern California. The Northern San Joaquin Valley has little commercial production but many backyard trees.

“We can’t allow (the disease) to take over and force growers to abandon citrus groves, and we cannot let our residential trees, some of which have been planted by our grandparents, to wither and die,” state Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Manteca, said at the hearing. It was before the Senate Agriculture Committee, which she chairs.

The Modesto zone stretches to parts of Hart Road on the west, Ladd Road on the north, Claus Road on the east and Service Road on the south.

The quarantine bars the movement of fruit out of the zone unless leaves and stems are removed. The county and state also are working with nurseries to prevent the spread through the sale of citrus trees.

O’Haire said his office has increased the number of traps for psyllids, one of several pests that it monitors. The state agency is taking a “wait-and-see” approach on whether pesticide spraying might be needed near the find, he said.

All or part of 21 counties have psyllid quarantines. The Turlock zone covers 101 square miles from Keyes to the northern part of Delhi. The Oakdale zone is 133 square miles that include the city and land on all sides.

John Holland: 209-578-2385

How to help

  • People who believe they have found an Asian citrus psyllid can call 800-491-1899, the state’s pest hotline.
  • The California Department of Food and Agriculture describes the psyllid as “3 to 4 millimeters long with a brown, mottled body. The head is light brown. ... The insect is covered with a whitish waxy secretion, making it appear dusty.”
  • More information is at www.cdfa.ca.gov/plant/acp.
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