via Wikimedia Commons
It’s been a tense year for citrus growers since a case of Huounlongbing (HLB) disease was detected on a Los Angeles backyard pomelo tree in March 2012. HLB, though harmless to humans, is deadly to citrus trees. The disease is spread through the Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP), an aphid-like pest, which been found in groves throughout the Southern US, Mexico, and many other countries.
So far, no new cases of HLB have been reported, but the ACP pest has been found in groves in San Bernadino, Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, and Imperial counties, where it is currently under eradication. In November 2012, ACP was found in the San Joaquin Valley, resulting in a quarantine. Eradicating the ACP pest is only possible through tree removal, new planting of uninfected trees, and, of most concern to organic growers, heavy use of pesticides.
We recently had a talk with our friend Bill Fuijmoto, the go-to man for produce, and he shared a few insights on what we might expect for the future of organic citrus in California.
Since ACP and HLB are so devastating, and in fact have almost wiped out Florida’s citrus industry, California citrus farmers at risk for infection will be taking every precaution to protect their groves. Since this might include heavy insecticide sprays, Bill says if ACP continues to spread, organically grown California citrus may become hard, or even near impossible, to find in the coming years.
Citrus farmers like Jim Churchill and Lisa Brenneis of Churchill Orchards in Ojai have so far been unaffected by ACP, but say they remain worried, especially after nearly losing their tangerine crop to freeze this year.
We will keep our fingers crossed and our eyes open.
If you have citrus trees, learn to spot the signs of ACP and HLB, and report possible symptoms to the California Department of Food and Agriculture with their “Save Our Citrus” app.