EL CAJON COUNCIL HEARS FROM AGRICULTURE EXPERTS ON DISEASE THREATENING CITRUS CROPS

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By Janis Mork

January 31, 2013 (El Cajon)—A dozen trees in El Cajon have been found infested by an insect carrying a disease that is deadly to citrus disease and which has prompted a countywide quarantine, agriculture experts informed El Cajon Council members at yesterday’s meeting.

Mark Olson, a representative for the Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Program, wanted to give the community an update on the Asian Citrus Psyllid and the disease it carries- Huanglongbing (HLB). “It was recently found in El Cajon for the first time,” he said. “The good news is that the pest has been found and the disease has not shown up. We’re preparing for it though; it will probably show up in El Cajon.” 

The disease wiped out 40% of Florida’s citrus crop in a year. The Asian Citrus Psyllid has recently been discovered in Southern California, including several East County locations, as ECM previously reported.

David Pegos, special assistant of the Plant Health Division of the Department of Food and Agriculture, gave a presentation on the insect, which is native to Asia. There is no cure for the disease. Cooperation has been achieved with the federal government, USDA, state, local, industry, and El Cajon city residents. The U.S. Department of Agriculture with the County Agricultural Commission sets up traps in trees in detection and trapping program.

There have been 12 detections (finds) in El Cajon. For the treatment of trees, “The short term is 1) leaf treatment, which is more immediate knockdown. or 2) soil drainage goes up in the tree. One long-term would be looking for a cure.” For environmental monitoring, there has been work with the Department of Pesticide regulation “to monitor the soil, air and tanks used for treatment.”

Karen Melvin, deputy agricultural commissioner from Agriculture, Weights and Measures of the San Diego County Department of Agriculture explained how, “there’s commercial citrus in North County, but it’s not only there. As of January 10 this year, the entire county is under quarantine. What does this mean? It means the citrus trees can’t be moved or planted out of quarantine area. It’s important people keep their trees healthy by watering and fertilizing. That way, they can tell if it has the insect in it.”

Olson gave the call to action for homeowners. “1) Don’t transport the plant materials out of the area. 2) Inspect monthly or whenever watering or pruning. Look on the leaves. If you find the insect or aren’t sure if there’s one, call the California Department of Food and Agriculture hotline at 1-800- 491-1899, and they will send someone out.”

He said major damage has been done by the pest in China, Brazil and Mexico” Olson hopes that the city leaders would cooperate with the residents and advised the Council to stay informed.

For more info see this Twitter (http://twitter.com/CitrusThreat) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/CaliforniaCitrusThreat). The website is http://www.californiacitrusthreat.org.