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Check your citrus plants for a deadly disease — and help California avoid a crisis

Damage caused by an Asian citrus psyllid
Damage caused by an Asian citrus psyllid

Q. Is Asian citrus psyllid still a problem for citrus in California?

Greg, Los Osos

A. Local agriculture officials are continuing to look for the Asian citrus psyllid, which can infect trees with Huanglongbing, a disease that can kill a tree in about five years. The most recent tree found with that disease was in Riverside County in July.

Although the psyllid has been found in various locations in San Luis Obispo County, Huanglongbing (HLB) has not.

Both commercial orchards and citrus trees in yards and other landscapes are equally at risk. Agriculture officials continue to hang yellow sticky traps on citrus trees in urban areas and in commercial orchards and check regularly for signs of the pest. They also inspect flushes of new growth, where the psyllid prefers to go.

If you have a citrus tree in your yard or commercial landscape, you can help. Volunteer to have a sticky trap placed in your tree. Call the county Ag Commissioner’s office at 805-781-5910 and sign up for the trapping program.

Inspect your trees regularly for any signs of feeding damage and the psyllid. Look for new flush that’s twisted. Look for eggs, nymphs and waxy tubules among that twisted new growth. Look for feeding adults that sit at a 45-degree angle with their head down and abdomen up.

If you’re looking to plant a new citrus tree, purchase only from local licensed nurseries and use only certified budwood. Visit the Citrus Clonal Protection Program for more information.

Avoid moving citrus trees, fruit or cuttings between counties and states, not even with friends and family. This is the quickest way to spread insects and disease.

Managing the psyllid is a key step in preventing the disease. HLB has devastated the Florida citrus industry, resulting in an estimated loss of 7,500 jobs a year and $3 billion in lost revenue. Help protect California citrus to avoid a similar fate.

If you suspect the presence of the Asian citrus psyllid, save any evidence in a clear glass jar, plastic bag or container and contact the California Department of Food and Agriculture pest hotline at 1-800-491-1899.

Leonard Cicerello is a UCCE Master Gardener.

Got a gardening question?

In San Luis Obispo call 781-5939, Arroyo Grande, 473-7190 and Templeton, 434-4105. Visit us at http://ucanr.org/sites/mgslo/ or email us at anrmgslo@ucanr.edu. Follow us on Instagram at slo_mgs and like us on Facebook. Informative garden workshops are held the third Saturday of every month, 10 a.m. to noon at 2156 Sierra Way, San Luis Obispo. Garden docents are available after the workshop until 1 p.m. To request a tour of the garden, call 781-5939.

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