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Apr 1, 2014 10:37 PM by LiLi Tan, KSBY News

Deadly citrus tree pest arrives in SLO County

After months of severe drought, some San Luis Obispo County growers may have another issue to deal with: a deadly citrus pest called the Asian Citrus Psyllid. San Luis Obispo County's Agriculture Department confirmed that they found one of the deadly insects on March 26 in the gated residential community of Falcon Ridge Estates in Arroyo Grande. "There's no cure for it once the tree becomes infected," said Agricultural Commissioner Martin Settevendemie. He says the Asian Citrus Psyllid is capable of destroying citrus trees, first attacking their shoots and then killing the entire tree, if it carries a disease called Huanglong Bing or Citrus Greening Disease. "It can actually kill the tree," Settevendemie said. "It worries me of course, and it worries the growers and citrus nursery stock producers, and we're doing everything we can to keep it at bay and also subsequently to eliminate it from the county." The Department of Agriculture has implemented a quarantine with a five-mile radius from Falcon Ridge Estates. This stretches from the edges of Pismo Beach to Nipomo and encompasses more than 600 acres of citrus groves and nurseries, which is about 20 percent of SLO County's $13 million citrus crop. Growers and nursery owners will have to use pesticides to eradicate any Asian Citrus Psyllid before moving their fruit or trees out of the area. This is all to avoid what has happened in other states when the pest had its way. "Probably the worst that's been seen is in Florida where up to 50 percent of the crops have been lost," Settevendemie said. The Agriculture Commissioner says that it's still too early to know what effects the quarantine will have on citrus prices; however, he says that if people think they see an Asian Citrus Psyllid to call the Department of Agriculture to have it tested. The quarantine will stay in effect for two years, according to the Commissioner.

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