Legislators take first step to combatting incurable citrus disease

Senator Shannon Grove works alongside seven legislators to request $2.5 million to combat Citrus Yellow Vein Clearing Virus

TULARE – Money doesn’t grow on trees, but diseases can. California legislators request millions to combat a new virus found on a lemon tree in Tulare County.

Senator Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) worked alongside seven Central Valley legislators and Exeter based California Citrus Mutual to ask the California State Senate for $2.5 million to help prevent and contain the Citrus Yellow Vein Clearing Virus (CYVCV). In Grove’s letter to Senate Chairs Nancy Skinner and Phil Ting, she states the funding would allow California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program (CPDPD) to develop a risk mitigation plan, measure the spread of the virus, and help prevent the disease from spreading further. 

“The gravest details that cause the most concern are that no effective chemical treatments are available to stop the virus, and its spread occurs amongst very common insect vectors found in California,” Grove wrote. 

This request came after the discovery of CYVCV after a routine inspection on a Tulare County residential property on March 11. Citrus Research Board’s Chief Research Scientist Melinda Klein said it was the first time CVYVC had been detected in North America. The virus is untreatable and can cause significant economic loss and decrease in fruit production, according to the CDFA. This funding will help the CDFA get one step closer to combating the virus. 

“This new virus…has the potential to impact the California citrus industry, its workforce and ultimately California Agriculture unless emergency resources are employed,” Grove wrote.

The $2.5 million would come from the state’s  general fund and help bring on more CPDPD staff, in addition to providing the funds necessary to continue surveying trees, purchasing lab equipment and gear, educating the public, enforcing regulations and also developing a response plan in conjunction with CDFA’s counterpart, U.S. Department of Agriculture. The actions stated in the letter will be performed in Tulare County as well as surrounding counties such as Fresno, Kern and King counties. 

The CPDPD is the same program that aids California’s citrus growers in combating diseases such as the huanglongbing (HLB) virus that is fatal to trees, which is also incurable, but preventable. 

The symptoms of CYVCV are similar in most countries, with China experiencing leaves that appeared “water-soaked,” with clear and yellow veins stretching across the warped citrus leaves. The virus weakens in the heat but worsens in colder climates. The appearance of these symptoms varies on temperature and location of these trees, and in some cases can cause mosaic-like structures on the fruit body, or ring spots on leaves, according to the CDFA.

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