California has been waging a war to keep the Asian Citrus Psyllid, or ACP, out of the state, and for good reason. The ACP is a tiny little bug with a big punch: it carries the bacteria that causes Huanglongbing or HLB, also known as citrus greening.
This disease has devastated citrus around the world. The California Department of Food and Agriculture and the University of California, working with strong grower support, have worked hard to keep HLB out of California orchards, but everyone knew it was inevitable, HLB would get here. The question was, could they hold it off long enough to find an answer? Could they find a cure before it devastated California’s Citrus, as it has destroyed citrus crops around the world? It looks like they made it, but just In the nick of time.
There have been finds of ACP in home citrus trees in Southern California, but none in commercial orchards, until this summer. The first commercial infestation was found down in the Inland Empire area. Now, A new infestation seems be happening in Kern County. For the first time, ACP are being found in a commercial grove there.
But the UC probably has found a long term answer to the threat.
The first is a tiny wasp that feeds on the ACP. UC researchers have found It is at east 70 per cent effective agains the ACP, with no effect on other species. They are being released in large quantities in the affected areas right now.
There are some problems with these little warriors; first is, there is no food for them in citrus orchards. So for long term control, growers have to plant specific flowers to keep the tiny wasps alive. Also, ants will kill them, so ant control is essential.
However, an even more effective treatment is on the horizon. It looks like researchers at UC Riverside have isolated a peptide in finger limes that can cure a diseased tree. This treatment should be on the market in 2023.
The people of California will owe a big thank you to those UC researchers for saving a crop that has always represented California. California without oranges is worse than a day without sunshine.
About the Author
Len Wilcox is a retired scientist who also ran a newspaper and has written for agricultural publications since the 1980s. He was a regular contributor to California Farmer Magazine. His commentary “The Western View” is a regular feature on Farm City Newsday and AgNet West.