The California Department of Food and Agriculture, in concert with the Citrus Research Board, Visalia, is increasing trap density following the discovery of an Asian citrus psyllid in Ventura County, one of the state’s major citrus growing counties.

California citrus industry on alert after new psyllid find

The lone psyllid was found about Dec. 16 in the La Conchita area at the northern reaches of the county, said Bob Blakely, director of industry relations for California Citrus Mutual, Exeter. The pest was in a trap in a small citrus grove.

“We’re not ready to panic,” Blakely said. “Unless they find another one, we’ll remain cautiously optimistic.”

Asian citrus psyllids have been known to hitchhike on greenery, and the single pest was found at least 20 miles from the closest major commercial groves, he said.

The psyllid can carry the disease, huanglongbing, which is fatal to citrus trees. The first Asian citrus psyllid found in California was trapped near San Diego more than two years ago, but none of the psyllids found to date has tested positive for the disease.

Rain storms that are forecast to continue at least through Dec. 26 are hindering the placing of additional traps, Blakely said.

“But the staff will be getting in and doing visual surveying as soon

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as the weather permits,” he said.

Though just one psyllid was found, its detection triggered a Department of Food and Agriculture quarantine that prohibits the movement of host nursery plants out of the area and requires that citrus fruit be cleaned of leaves and stems before it is packed for shipment. The state agency is working with the grower where the pest was trapped to determine treatment options, according to a news release.

Citrus is a top ten commodity in Ventura County, home to nearly 22,000 acres of lemon, orange, grapefruit and specialty citrus groves, according to the county agricultural commissioner’s 2009 report. Lemons are the dominant citrus crop covering 17,703 acres.

The county’s citrus industry had revenues of $145 million in 2009, according to the report.