Preventing tree damage from the citrus psyllid

UC Master GardenerMarch 20, 2013 

Q: I’ve heard about the Asian Citrus Psyllid. What is it and how can I prevent it?

A: The Asian citrus psyllid is a tiny pest that packs a wallop.

Generally classified as a minor nuisance because of its predilection for eating the new leaves and stems of citrus trees, the Asian citrus psyllid has gained a devastating reputation as a vector for Huanglongbing (HLB) disease. HLB causes leaves to yellow and fruit to become bitter and misshapen. Death of the tree ensues.

Transmission among trees occurs most often by infected psyllids. Once the Asian citrus psyllid contracts the disease, it is a lifelong carrier. The disease is spread from tree to tree as the psyllid feeds.

As the top economic citrus state in the nation, California is particularly at risk. California produces about 80 per cent of the nation’s fresh fruit citrus and is the country’s main source of fresh market oranges.

With no known cure for HLB, the Asian citrus psyllid poses a significant threat to the citrus industry worldwide. In an attempt to limit the spread of the pest and HLB, aggressive quarantine and area-wide management efforts have been put in place by the California Department of Food and Agriculture and other collaborating agencies.

In the home garden, the first line of defense is tree inspection. Citrus plants, material or fruit should not be transported outside of quarantined areas. Purchase trees from reputable, licensed California nurseries. When disposing of tree clippings, dry or double bag before disposal.

Thankfully, San Luis Obispo County remains uninfected to date. Stay informed, check your tree,s and if you think you’ve spotted an Asian citrus psyllid, act quickly and contact local agricultural authorities.

If you are a teacher, parent, or school volunteer and would like to learn more about school gardening, there is Garden-Based Learning workshop from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at 2156 Sierra Way in San Luis Obispo. The fee is $25.00.

Register online at http://ucanr.org/gardenbased learning or contact Teresa Lees at treelees@charter.net   for more information.

GOT A GARDENING QUESTION?

Contact the University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners: at 781-5939 from 1 to 5 p.m. on Monday and Thursday; at 473-7190 from 10 a.m. to noon on Wednesday in Arroyo Grande; and at 434-4105 from 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesday in Templeton. Visit the UCCE Master Gardeners website at http://ucanr.org/sites/mgslo or email mgsanluisobispo@ucdavis.edu  .

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