Citrus pest grabs the attention of researchers

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Citrus pest grabs the attention of researchers

Aubrey Brickzin, Brian Adigwu
Issue date: 11/10/09 Section: News

California's $1.6 billion citrus industry is becoming increasingly citrus pestthreatened by a tiny insect that carries a disease that could be detrimental to citrus fruit. The Asian citrus psyllid, or diachronic citri, has recently been discovered in San Diego County.

State officials are currently awaiting test results to see if the psyllid does carry the citrus greening disease, called Huanglongbing or HLB. The nearest outbreaks have occurred in Brazil, Louisiana and along Mexico's Yucatan peninsula.

"Like other relatives of this insect, the Asian citrus psyllid can reach very high densities relatively quickly," said UC Riverside assistant extension specialist in entomology Matt Daugherty.

The psyllid crossed the border from Mexico last year and has found its way into many residential areas in Southern California. Having already been trapped in Los Angeles, Orange, Imperial and San Diego counties; researchers are worried that the insect will soon reach the Inland Empire.

"There is little doubt that this invasive insect and disease constitute a major threat to California citrus. But predicting accurately the timing and ultimate consequence of their establishment in our area is difficult. If Florida and Brazil are an indication, citrus greening disease could have major economic impacts locally," Daugherty said.

Though the insect or the disease has yet to reach the Inland Empire region, researchers at UCR have begun precautionary research in the event that the disease does hit the area's citrus plants. This research includes searching for natural biological control agents for the psyllid, testing different citrus varieties for resistance to the insect and bacterial pathogen that it transmits and evaluating the uptake rate and efficacy of systemic insecticides in citrus trees.

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