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Tiny pest could have big impact on CA citrus industry


Narrator:        The University of California is helping state and federal officials in an aggressive campaign to quash a bug that could potentially devastate California's 1.3 billion dollar citrus industry. The tiny insect, about the size of a pin-head, is called the Asian Citrus Psyllid and it's a carrier of a deadly bacterial disease called huanglongbing.

Beth Grafton-Cardwell/UC citrus entomologist:      That disease is absolutely devastating for citrus. It will cause the leaves to turn yellow, it will cause the fruit to be small, misshapen and eventually turn kind of bitter tasting and eventually, it will kill the tree. Huanglongbing and Asian Citrus Psyllid come from Asia and India and they have slowly been working their way together around the world - Brazil now has both the insect pest and the disease, Florida has the insect pest and the disease and so does Cuba and we now know that eastern parts of Mexico also have the disease and this makes it of high concern because that means it can gradually work its way to California.

Narrator:        The psyllids were first detected in California last year in San Diego and Imperial counties and just recently, the pest was found in Los Angeles county. So far, none of the insects captured in this state were carrying the bacteria, but the goal is to quarantine the affected areas and try to eradicate the pest before damage is done.

Beth Grafton-Cardwell:      I am working with a whole group of people - the USDA, the federal agencies are working on this problem, CA Dept of Food and Ag, CDFA is working on this problem in terms of trying to eradicate the pest, the citrus industry is very active in this program because they want to understand how do they protect the citrus industry from this devastating disease and so a whole group of people from the citrus industry are providing funding, helping with public relations, doing grower education, public education, in order to prepare for their arrival of the disease and protect ourselves against the insect that is here.

Additional Story/Video: California homeowners can help stave off exotic citrus disease

Video footage, stills provided by ANR News and Information Outreach and Hungry Pests Coalition.