Organic citrus growers have spent more than a year now wading through the decision-making process for policies regarding the spread and eradication of Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) and the deadly disease it can spread, Huanglongbing (HLB) or Citrus Greening. The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) relies on a group of scientists known as the Science Advisory Panel (SAP) for recommendations about trapping and testing protocols, eradication zones, quarantines, and which materials are approved for control and/or eradication.
The SAP met in December in Ontario, CA and issued their report in March. The report contains recommendations that acknowledge the organic citrus industry in some areas, but not all of the recommendations favor or support organic.
A stakeholder meeting was held on April 16 to present the report. The key recommendation for organic citrus growers in the Central Valley was the acknowledgment that area-wide ACP treatment programs are critical for reducing spread of the ACP and HLB. “Area-wide” would mean that pest control activities would be coordinated throughout the area to target the 2-3 week periods around growth flushes when all trees can be treated at a similar time. Because this is control and not eradication, there are some organic materials that are approved for this program. They are Pyganic plus oil, Trilogy (neem oil), PFR - 97 (Isaria fumosoroseus fungus), and oils from petroleum and other sources.
From the report’s recommendation “D2”: "It is essential that research continue to identify the best organic treatment options and that organic growers be included in area-wide treatment programs. Because of the short residual activity of organic products identified to date, two organic sprays should be applied for each traditional spray, ideally with one organic treatment applied both at the beginning and the end of a particular non-organic spray timing."
Another important recommendation for several organic producers is recommendation “E1”. The SAP is recommending that all of Tulare County be quarantined for ACP because it is no longer feasible to eradicate it within Tulare County. While this sounds like bad news because it is spreading, it means that growers in that county will no longer be subjected to mandatory eradication sprays with prohibited materials and will be able to choose the organic options above for control of ACP.
Although this very serious pest is spreading in the Central Valley and now into San Luis Obispo county, organic producers are gaining recognition and making their voices heard. CCOF will continue to advocate for sound organic policy in this area.