Fresno County, Calif. becomes the second in the San Joaquin Valley to implement a countywide quarantine for the Asian citrus psyllid after a series of ACP finds in the past year in various locations.
Fresno County Agricultural Commissioner Les Wright says the decision made by his office came after conversations with commercial citrus industry representatives over the need to expand the quarantine.
According to Wright, the countywide ACP quarantine in Fresno County now means that growers there can pick and ship citrus within the county with no regulatory restrictions. This is significant because neighboring Tulare County’s countywide restrictions mean fruit from that county can now be easily moved from there to Fresno County packing sheds with no restrictions.
This is important because both counties grow a considerable amount of the state’s fresh citrus and numerous citrus packing sheds are located in both counties. Close to 90 percent of the state’s total citrus acreage of well over 250,000 is found in the counties of Fresno, Tulare and Kern.
According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, which officially establishes the quarantines, there are numerous other ACP quarantine zones in the central portion of California, but none of them outside of Fresno and Tulare counties extend entire counties.
Kern County, which borders Tulare to the south, has a significant portion of land under quarantine for the pest, though the quarantine does not extend to the entire county. Much of the current quarantine is along the major highways – Hwy. 99, I-5 and Hwy. 58. The cities of Bakersfield and Wasco are under an ACP quarantine.
Alyssa Houtby, spokesperson for California Citrus Mutual (CCM), a citrus trade association based in Tulare County, said the move by Fresno County came after discussions with citrus industry representatives, though she says the decision was entire that of the Fresno Agriculture Department.
“In the short term it benefits the packers and the growers,” she says, noting that citrus harvest has already begun in the region.
California’s ACP quarantines now extend from the International Border with Mexico, northward to Placer County, east of Sacramento and into the highly urbanized regions of the Bay Area and northern San Joaquin Valley. This has happened as new ACP finds continue to be reported in locations along major highways and in urban centers.
The ACP is a tiny insect that can vector a deadly bacterial disease in citrus called Huanglongbing. The disease renders fruit unmarketable. To date HLB has been found in over two dozen residential citrus trees in Los Angeles County. Those trees have since been removed by the state of California. A 180-square-mile HLB quarantine was established in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
HLB was first found in the United States in Florida and has since greatly reduced its citrus production as the disease is said to have spread to the entire citrus industry there. The Texas citrus industry has also reported the disease in its commercial groves. So far HLB has not been detected in commercial citrus in California.
California, which produces fruit for fresh-market consumption, is trying to prevent that from happening to its industry through regulatory action and voluntary best management practices