Bayer CropScience, California Citrus Mutual team up to combat Asian psyllid

Citrus greening
Citrus greening

Alameda County joined 16 other California counties under a total or partial citrus quarantine after the housefly-like Asian citrus psyllid was found on Monday in San Jose.

In the wake of these quarantines, Bayer CropScience has partnered with California Citrus Mutual, a non-profit citrus growers association, to promote awareness of the threat posed by the psyllid using the hashtag #CitrusMatters on social media.

The psyllid spreads a disease in citrus trees called Huanglongbing (HLB), commonly known as citrus greening. While HLB is not harmful to humans or animals, it is lethal to citrus trees. An infected tree produces misshapen, bitter and hard fruit before succumbing to the illness within a few years.

And citrus matters to California not only because the state’s citrus industry is valued at $2.4 billion, but because citrus is a part of life for many California homeowners. Sixty percent of California homes have at least one citrus tree on their property, which now pose a potential threat to nearby commercial groves.

“Under the quarantine, people cannot move citrus tree nursery stock out of the quarantine area. All citrus fruit must be cleaned of leaves and stems before they can be removed from the quarantine area. Residents with citrus trees on their property should not transport citrus fruit or leaves, potted citrus trees or curry leaves from the quarantine area,” said Steve Olson, senior product manager with Bayer’s Horticulture Marketing Group.

Part of the purpose of #CitrusMatters is to spread much-needed information like those quarantine compliance requirements with California’s citrus tree owners.

HLB is a particularly deadly and virulent disease with no cure currently known. Trees afflicted with HLB must be removed and destroyed or risk continued spread of the disease. The most effective method of combatting it is to target the psyllid that carries the bacteria which causes the disease. 

“Since 2010, growers in California have spent more than $15 million each year fighting Asian citrus psyllid to stop the progression of HLB,” Olsen said. “We have seen the devastating effects it has had on the Florida citrus industry and similar effects could occur in California if residents and commercial growers do not act to control the spread of the Asian citrus psyllid.”

In Florida, HLB has cost 76,000 jobs and has an annual economic impact of $9 billion on the citrus industry. For the average consumer, the average cost of a gallon of orange juice has increased almost a full dollar; $6.42 up from $5.49. The risk posed to the citrus industry by another major outbreak is potentially devastating.

Because of this risk and the importance of the new campaign, Bayer CropScience has pledged to donate $1 for each use of #CitrusMatters in social media (up to $25,000) to California Citrus Mutual to assist in the efforts to combat the spread of the psyllid and this deadly disease. 

"Citrus lovers, commercial citrus growers and California homeowners alike can get involved by visiting and sharing why citrus is important to them," added Olsen.