The number of huanglongbing (HLB) detections in California increased 160% from 2017 to 2018, according to the California Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program.
The disease, spread by Asian citrus psyllids, was reported in 269 trees in 2017 and 699 trees in 2018, according to a news release, signaling a growing threat the state’s citrus industry. A majority of the detections were in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
HLB has not been found in a commercial grove yet.
“The livelihood of California’s commercial citrus industry and the generations of families it supports is at risk because of HLB,” Jim Gorden, a San Joaquin Valley grower and chairman of the committee. “We are at a crossroads, and we must all work together to do what is necessary to protect our citrus.”
Over the past 10 years, HLB has devastated the Florida citrus industry, with 162,200 acres and $7.8 billion in revenue lost, according to the release. As researchers in Florida, California and other states research ways to stop the pests, find a treatment for infected trees and breed resistant plant material, fears grow that California’s 292,000 acres of citrus are vulnerable.
California has enacted quarantines throughout the state and California Department of Food and Agriculture employees are inspecting residential properties for the disease and pests.
“With more than half of California residences estimated to have a citrus tree on their property, and California citrus production supporting billions of dollars in our state’s economy, we all play an instrumental role in protecting our citrus,” Victoria Hornbaker, interim director of the citrus program at the department, said in the release.