Pesky pest detection



A tiny bug that threatens to be a big problem for the state’s citrus industry has again made an appearance in San Luis Obispo County trees.

The county Agricultural Commissioner/Sealer’s Office announced June 11 that it detected a single adult Asian citrus psyllid in a commercial citrus grove in the county’s southern-most region. The psyllid is the fifth found in the county since the first detection in an Arroyo Grande lemon tree in 2014. Three of those detections have been in South County, with another in northeastern San Luis Obispo and one in Cayucos.

Quarantines are in place around all the sites.

The Asian citrus psyllid is an invasive species that can transmit the disease huanglongbing—also known as citrus-greening disease or HLB—which is harmful and ultimately deadly to citrus trees. The pest gained a foothold in parts of Mexico and Southern California and is slowly working its way up the California coast.

While only one tree has been infected with huanglongbing in California —in a residential Los Angeles neighborhood in 2012—agricultural officials treat the pest’s presence seriously. The disease spread through Florida, wiping out half of the state’s commercial citrus trees and leaving more than $1.3 billion in damage.

In SLO County, commercial citrus plays a significant role in the agricultural industry. According to the county’s 2014 crop report, lemons are SLO County’s ninth largest revenue-generating crop, bringing in nearly $15.9 million last year, while Valencia oranges are the 19th most lucrative crop, bringing in $1.7 million.

-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay

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