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Apr 4, 2014 10:07 PM by LiLi Tan, KSBY News

Growers taking precautions to slow spread of Citrus Psyllid

Some citrus producers will have to begin taking precautions against the spread of Asian Citrus Psyllid, a deadly tree pest that was found in San Luis Obispo County at the end of March.

The SLO County Agriculture Commissioner says growers in the quarantined area will have to spray trees with pesticides two weeks before harvesting, or, if the grower is organic, remove leaves and stems from the fruit. Impacted orchards are within five miles of Falcon Ridge Estates in Arroyo Grande, where the Department of Agriculture found the Psyllid.

"It's a big pain in the neck, but we're all going to cooperate because our livelihood is based on maintaining the very low populations of Psyllid," Rollie Cavaletto said. The Nipomo-based citrus grower is a mile outside the quarantine zone , but he says the arrival of the Citrus Psyllid impacts the entire industry.

"We're all paying a fee for every box of lemons or oranges that we produce to try and prevent this," Cavaletto said, also mentioning that the federal government is also stepping in with aid.

Growers say preventing the spread is necessary to avoid what happened in Florida.

"They had the Psyllid and they weren't concerned because they didn't think they had the disease, then the Psyllid was spread all over. Sixty percent of Florida citrus was infected," Cavaletto said.

The arrival of the Psyllid does not necessarily mean Huanglongbing or citrus greening disease is present, according to Ag Commissioner Martin Settevendemie. Cavaletto says it takes four years for symptoms such as the leaves turning yellow and the fruit becoming deformed and bitter tasting to kick in. Then, it can destroy the entire tree.

Growers and the Department of Agriculture are asking the public not to move plant material from Southern California, where officials have found the disease.
Settevendemie says all producers, haulers, and receivers in the quarantine area must sign compliance agreements by next week.

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