(UPDATED COVERAGE, 5:30 p.m.) California citrus growers and government agricultural officials are relying on backyard gardeners to help contain citrus greening disease in the state.
The recent discovery of an infected citrus tree in a backyard in the Hacienda Heights area of Los Angeles spurred the California Department of Food and Agriculture to set up a hot line for residents who suspect they may have infected trees.
The toll-free number is 800-491-1899.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has created a free iPhone app, “Save our Citrus.” The app can be downloaded at http://tinyurl.com/SaveOurCitrus. An Android-compatible version is in the works, according to a news release from California Citrus Mutual, Exeter, Calif.
According to the USDA, the app can help users identify four different citrus diseases: citrus greening, citrus canker, citrus black spot and sweet orange scab with photos and descriptions. There is also a link to a YouTube channel with additional information.
The USDA app also has a function that allows users to upload a photo of their citrus tree, leaves or fruit and receive a response back.
State, federal and citrus industry leaders have all identified homeowners as the front line of defense against the disease, according to Citrus Mutual. More than 100 homeowners attended a CDFA information session in the San Gabriel Valley the first week of April after the first infected tree was found.
The infected tree has been removed and samples are being tested further. The remainder of the tree is being destroyed. All citrus trees within a half-mile radius from the infected tree are being treated, and a 93-square-mile quarantine is in place.
The new 93-square-mile quarantine area is in addition to several quarantine zones established since 2008 when the first Asian citrus psyllid was found in California. Citrus psyllids can spread bacteria that causes citrus greening disease, also known as huanglonbing.
The quarantines prohibit movement of all nursery stock out of the affected areas but allow for commercially cleaned and packed citrus fruit to be shipped. Any other citrus fruit grown in the quarantined areas cannot be removed from the property where it was grown. The CDFA has maps of the quarantine zones on its website.
Karen Ross, California agriculture secretary, begged for residents to help contain the disease in a news release, saying “the stakes couldn’t be higher for California citrus.”
The pest and the disease are also present in Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia and South Carolina. Arizona, Mississippi and Alabama have detected the pest but not the disease.