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Asian citrus psyllid feeding on citrus leaf

Beware the 'snake-oil salesman' selling HLB cures

California Citrus Mutual (CCM) is reporting that the Huanglongbing disease survey of the San Gabriel area is complete and that the total count of HLB-positive trees in the area remains at 10.

None of these trees were in a commercial citrus grove. All were in residential neighborhoods.

The next step, according to CCM, will be for the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to survey citrus plants on 600-800 properties every two months for the bacterial disease. The CDFA will be in San Gabriel up to six times per year visiting highest-risk properties up to three times per year.

Properties in lower-risk areas will be visited once annually.

From what I’ve heard and witnessed, CDFA is to be commended for its approach in this process. We’ve heard the stories from Florida, and California seems to have learned a lesson from Florida’s slow reaction to the pest and the disease and has acted accordingly.

As we move forward in this battle, there are reports of new technologies that may make detecting HLB easier than the current polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing protocols currently approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

We are watching those reports and through contacts with various reputable sources within the citrus industry will attempt to bring you updates as available.

What the industry does not need right now, but will likely appear, are the snake-oil salesmen and widget promoters who announce the latest break-through that will “revolutionize” the process and present a false premise and hope that their gizmo or product will save the industry.

Right now there is no known cure for HLB. Moreover, there is no approved early-detection system for it either, which is the most frustrating part about the process because seemingly asymptomatic trees can allow feeding psyllids to spread the disease.

Moreover, CCM reminds its members that nutrients are no cure for the disease either. I’ve heard stories that suggest nutrient programs can help, and perhaps even buy a little time as infected trees continue to die. The fact remains that the tree is still infected, and therefore is a reservoir for further spreading the disease.

That has been why the citrus industry has been so animated about controlling the spread of the ACP – because that’s the one thing the industry can do to at least slow the spread of HLB in California until research can find a cure for the disease.

So, beware the 'snake-oil' salesman who says his nutrition program can save your citrus trees or worse, prevent  infection. That premise only leads to complacency in what we already know that works – coordinated treatment efforts and diligent monitoring of your groves for the psyllid.

Furthermore, keep up with the latest university-based research information and news from reputable sources including Western Farm Press, CDFA, University of California, and your local commodity trade association.

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