The state Department of Agriculture has expanded a citrus quarantine to encompass all of Tulare County to fight the spread of the pernicious Asian citrus psyllid following the discovery of two of the tiny insects in neighborhoods in the city of Tulare.
The psyllid is a major concern to the citrus industry because it can carry a tree-killing disease known as huanglongbing, or citrus greening. The quarantine means that nursery stock of citrus trees cannot be moved out of the county. Any citrus fruit — including oranges, lemons, tangerines or grapefruit — has to be stripped of leaves and stems before it can leave the county. People who have citrus trees in their yards are also asked not to take fruit out of the county.
Various areas of Tulare County have been under ever-expanding quarantines since late 2012, when the psyllid was confirmed to have spread to the county. The latest detections — one in a trap in a residential neighborhood on Sept. 10, the second at another Tulare home on Sept. 17 — prompted state agriculture officials to put a countywide quarantine in place as “the most effective response to contain the pest,” according to the state’s announcement.
Tulare County has more than 118,000 acres planted to citrus trees, according to the county agricultural commissioner’s office, and production of citrus crops accounted for more than $1 billion in value in 2013. Nursery stock for citrus and subtropical trees represented another $11 million in value.
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Tulare County is the only San Joaquin Valley county that is under a countywide quarantine for the Asian citrus psyllid. Quarantines are in place in portions of Fresno and Kern counties. Elsewhere in the state, all of Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties are under quarantine, as well as part of San Luis Obispo County.
While the psyllid has been detected in those counties, the only instance of huanglongbing, or citrus greening, was at a home in Los Angeles County in 2012, according to the state Department of Food and Agriculture. All citrus trees are susceptible to the disease. Once a tree becomes infected, it declines in health, producing bitter-tasting fruit and eventually dying.