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Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) is an invasive, aphid-like insect pest. Although the psyllid (SIL-lid) is not a serious problem by itself, it can transmit a devastating bacterial disease to citrus trees. Known as Huanglongbing (HLB), the disease ruins the taste and appearance of citrus fruit, and eventually kills infected trees. There is no treatment or cure for Huanglongbing (wong-long-BING), and all commercially valuable varieties of citrus are vulnerable. The pest and disease have devastated Florida’s citrus industry, and could destroy Ventura County’s within a decade if not controlled.
The potential threat posed by ACP and the disease it transmits goes well beyond commercial citrus production and the jobs, income and tax dollars it generates. Tens of thousands of trees in residential yards are also at risk. They too will die if infected with HLB, meaning that an iconic element of the suburban Southern California landscape – the backyard orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit or tangerine tree – also might disappear from Ventura County.
Since ACP first showed up in Ventura County in 2010, it has spread widely, despite an aggressive campaign to eradicate and suppress it. The entire county is now regarded as generally infested, given that the pest has been found in urban plantings in every city as well as in commercial orchards in every production area. Because there is still no known cure or treatment for the disease, the only way to attack it is by suppressing and slowing the spread of its vector, ACP. This will buy time for the global research effort that’s seeking to find a cure or treatment for the disease, or to develop citrus varieties that are tolerant, resistant or immune to it.
Although the disease has not yet been detected in Ventura County, it has been found in numerous urban neighborhoods in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
Locally, the campaign is being guided by the Ventura County ACP-HLB Task Force
Farm Bureau of Ventura County and other industry stakeholders established the Ventura County ACP-HLB Task Force in early 2010. Over the next three years, it conducted a broad-scale information and education campaign focused on heightening public awareness of the threat posed by the pest and disease. More recently, its role has been to help growers, packing houses, and pest-control advisers and operators address the infestation.
The Task Force mission is “to coordinate an effective industry response to the threat posed by the Asian citrus psyllid, with the goal of achieving maximum suppression of the ACP population and delaying the introduction and potential spread of Huanglongbing disease.”
For the most up-to-date information about Task Force activities and the status of ACP in Ventura County, visit the Task Force’s Facebook page.