Update: Spread of Asian Citrus Psyllid

Update October 7, 2013:

In September, new Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) were found in Dinuba, Exeter, and Wasco, California. This expands the quarantine areas to parts of Kern and Fresno, as well as Tulare County. A quarantine area of 86 square-miles was set up for the find in Exeter on October 2, and similar zones previously in the other new areas. The details and maps can be found at www.cdfa.ca.gov/plant/go/acp-quarantine-sjv.

In order to move bulk citrus out of any quarantine area there must be a special permit obtained from CDFA. This involves an ACP-Free Declaration form and the use of chemicals that are prohibited for organic production, although there is the option to propose in an appeal to CDFA alternative methods of achieving ACP-freedom.

The efforts to raise Tamarixia radiata, a bio-control insect, have significantly ramped up in the last few months, with the first releases beginning in August in Los Angeles and Riverside counties. A new facility for mass rearing the insects will be in production by December. Research is also well underway for rearing the insects in field cages: a whole citrus tree is caged and then the pest and beneficials released into it so feeding and breeding will occur.

Meanwhile, the OTA Citrus Task Force met by webinar with the scientific branch of APHIS to go over the alternative protocols that are being used successfully in Florida and Texas against both ACP and Huanglongbing. Techniques involving nutritional balancing, beneficial releases, and timing of organic sprays are all viable techniques that were acknowledged by the APHIS scientists. However, they are not accepted as an approach to the eradication efforts that are prevalent in California. Organic growers definitely need to be vigilant and create the most healthy trees possible in order to withstand the spread of this pest.

More information is on the CDFA website for ACP.

Update July 31, 2013:

In early July, six new Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) were found in the Porterville area of Tulare County. A quarantine area of five miles has been set up around the finds. There appear to be no organic producers within or adjacent to the quarantined areas. A core area of one square mile around the finds is being watched carefully, with many traps and frequent visual inspections occurring. A hold notice has been issued for citrus nursery stock within five miles of detection. The CDFA is allowing a "spray and move" option so growers do not have to remove stems and leaves in the field, but can move fruit to packing facilities. A permit is required for this. More information is on the CDFA website for ACP.

Meanwhile, CCOF continues to participate with growers from California, Texas, and Florida on the OTA Citrus Task Force. The task force members are trying to reach out to APHIS officials on a national level to inform them about organic citrus and make sure that organic alternative treatments are acknowledged and researched as part of the ACP program.

Original Post June 24, 2013:

Growers in California, Florida, and Texas have been collaborating with CCOF on the OTA Task Force for Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) and Citrus Greening Disease, huanlongbing. While the pest and the disease are relatively new in California, they have been around for awhile in Florida and Texas. Organic pioneers in those states have developed integrated organic control programs that California producers, as well as government officials, can learn from.

The Task Force convened a meeting on June 18th in Washington D.C. with the National Organic Program (NOP) and the Animal Plant Health and Inspection Service (APHIS), which is the agency that oversees many of the eradication efforts and quarantines in California through the state Department of Agriculture (CDFA). The goal of the meeting was to educate representatives on the effectiveness of organic management protocols being used to control the disease, and to gain support for a nationally accepted organic treatment program that will be approved in the case of a federal or state mandatory spray situation.

The presentation that was given at this meeting is available online.

The presentation includes information about the size of the organic citrus industry, the typical harvest/bloom cycle for citrus in California which may be more than a year long, some of the organic treatments that are used in Texas and Florida, the extent of ACP and Greening in California, and the areas where the government officials need to work to achieve recognition and success for organic citrus.

California citrus growers are challenged by a lack of acceptance of organic treatments due to the eradication mindset, and inconsistency in policies and attitudes between different counties regarding ACP control and eradication efforts. The next steps for the Organic Citrus Task Force are to bring a similar presentation to California regulators and industry leaders to gain acceptance for organic protocols nationwide and to encourage more research into organic treatments.

There is no doubt that ACP and the Citrus Greening Disease are serious pests that threaten long-term viability of citrus crops nationwide. Although Florida and Texas organic growers are able to achieve a similar or better control than their conventional colleagues, there is still crop lost to disease and a continual pressure for control measures. California organic producers who want to be proactive before the disease takes hold are facing a tough path through lack of available biocontrols, mandatory eradication efforts that don't include organic solutions, and in some cases, a lack of cooperation from the conventional industry.

CCOF continues to advocate for organic growers' needs by working at the national level, such as on this OTA task force, and at the state level with affected parties and citrus industry representatives.