Citrus Tree Owners Cautioned to not Spread Pest and Disease When Harvesting Backyard Citrus

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Asian citrus psyllid
Asian citrus psyllid

The devastating citrus tree disease was discovered not far away in Los Angeles County last year. Imperial County is under quarantine for the Asian citrus psyllid, a pest that can spread the plant disease as it feeds on leaves and stems. It’s critical that Valleyites take precautions when harvesting their backyard citrus fruit this time of year.

Quarantines Restrict Movement of Citrus Plant Material

SACRAMENTO – Jan. 28, 2016 – Due to the threat posed by the Asian citrus psyllid and Huanglongbing, the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program urges citrus tree owners to obey pest and disease quarantines, and take extra caution when gifting citrus fruit from backyard trees.

The Asian citrus psyllid, a pest that feeds on citrus leaves, can spread a fatal and incurable citrus tree disease called Huanglongbing, also known as HLB or citrus greening disease. Both the pest and the disease have been found in California, so tree owners across the state should be on alert.

The pest can easily fly over backyard fences, and put citrus plants and trees at risk if they’re not properly managed, but people also play a big part in how they spread. Transporting citrus fruit with leaves still attached can inadvertently help spread the pest. To limit the spread of the pest and disease, people traveling in and out of California should not transport citrus fruit, leaves or whole citrus plants. Quarantines are in place throughout the state that limit the transport of citrus between areas where the psyllid and disease have been found. Visit CDFA.ca.gov/plant/acp for quarantine maps.

As residential citrus trees flourish, tree owners may choose to share fruit with friends and family within their quarantine area. CPDPP recommends all leaves be removed and fruit washed thoroughly before removing it from the property. This prevents Asian citrus psyllids or leaves infected with Huanglongbing from spreading to new areas.

“We must all work together to ensure fresh, California citrus continues to grow healthy in our backyards,” says Victoria Hornbaker, citrus program manager with the California Department of Food and Agriculture. “Prevention and detection are key to stopping the psyllid and disease from destroying California’s iconic fruit.”

To protect trees, citrus tree owners should inspect trees for the Asian citrus psyllid and Huanglongbing when picking fruit. The pest is one-eighth of an inch long and feeds at a 45-degree angle, making the insect appear thorn-like on leaves and stems. Symptoms of Huanglongbing include blotchy, yellow leaves, deformed fruit that doesn’t ripen and excessive fruit drop. Trees infected with Huanglongbing will die and must be removed to protect other healthy trees nearby from contracting the disease.

Citrus tree owners who think they have found similarities to the pest or the disease should call the California Department of Food & Agriculture’s hotline, 1-800-491-1899, immediately.

For more information on Asian citrus psyllid and Huanglongbing prevention, visit CaliforniaCitrusThreat.org.