Taskforce formed to thwart spread of citrus greening disease

Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Program form a response taskforce to develop voluntary actions if huanglongbing (HLB) is found in citrus


CALIFORNIA – While the entire California citrus industry waits on a cure for huanglongbing (HLB), the deadly disease spread by the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP), invested stakeholders are working together on policies to limit its growth.

Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Program (CPDPP) chair Jim Gorden appointed an HLB grower response taskforce to develop recommended voluntary actions for citrus growers to take if HLB is found in their commercial grove or within 800 meters of their commercial grove; and, if possible, priority voluntary actions by importance.  Included in their recommendation is to be a communications strategy for engaging the industry in developing the recommended actions and in communicating what the recommendation is once it is endorsed by the committee.

The taskforce is instructed to utilize best available science, consider input received from the industry, and reference the CPDPP strategic plan in developing its recommendations. The taskforce is comprised of seven growers, two of whom are on the CPDPP Committee, three scientific advisors, and one representative each from California Department of Food and Agriculture, the Citrus Research Board and California Citrus Mutual.

The committee was in agreement that there must be additional opportunities for the industry members to provide input before the they endorse a recommended response.

The taskforce originally came together as early as this month during the CPDPP meeting when the committee moved forward with a plan to develop recommended voluntary actions for growers should HLB be discovered in or near a commercial citrus grove.

Under existing law, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is authorized to take certain actions in response to a confirmed detection of an HLB-infected tree.  Those actions include the removal of only the infected tree and a mandatory treatment by the grower of all citrus trees within 400 meters of the positive tree.  In this scenario, CDFA would survey and test 25% of trees in the grove and every residential citrus tree within the 400 meter radius of the find.

Over the past few years as the number of HLB finds have multiplied, California Citrus Mutual, CDFA, and the Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Program have facilitated meetings and discussions to engage the industry on what actions growers would be willing to take in response to an HLB find in or near a commercial grove above and beyond the regulatory response.

In September of 2018 CCM, CDFA, and USDA organized a series of focus group meetings in the production groups in order to gauge growers’ willingness to remove trees, participate in treatment programs, utilize early detection technologies, conduct proactive testing, and conduct sampling.  Participants were selected by CDFA based on their proximity to high-risk areas for HLB.

A summary of the focus group report was presented to the CPDPC on Jan. 9 by Price Adams of Nuffer, Smith, Tucker, the agency contracted by the CPDPC to manage public and industry outreach about ACP and HLB. Overall, the majority of focus group participants stated that they would be willing to take some sort of voluntary action upon confirmation of a positive tree, ACP or nymph near their grove. Additionally, there was strong support for conducting additional surveying and doing pro-active or area-wide ACP treatments.

The taskforce may not have been formed a minute too soon. Last week the CDFA working in cooperation with the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s Agriculture Program, has placed San Francisco County under a plant pest quarantine for the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) following the detection of one ACP in San Francisco’s Marina District. The quarantine is a regulatory program designed to limit the artificial movement of ACP host plants, thereby isolating the insect and stopping the spread of the pest.

Like all other residential and commercial citrus throughout California, Residents with backyard citrus trees in San Francisco are asked not to transport or send citrus fruit or leaves, potted citrus trees, or curry leaves from the quarantine area. For commercial concerns in San Francisco, the quarantine prohibits the movement of citrus and curry leaf-tree nursery stock, including all plant parts except fruit, out of the quarantine area, and the regulations require that all citrus fruit be cleaned of leaves and stems prior to moving out of the quarantine area.

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