Invasive Pest Threatens CA's $2 Billion Citrus Crop

Invasive Pest Threatens CA's $2 Billion Citrus Crop

CBS Sacramento reports that California’s $2 billion citrus crop is being threatened by a pest which has already destroyed much agriculture in the Southeast United States. Called the Asian citrus psyllid, it spreads a disease called “Citrus greening.”

Rich Ferreira of Side Hill Citrus told CBS Sacramento: “I’ve had friends go to Florida and send me back pictures of devastated orchards where it looks like they’ve just stopped irrigating and there are just silhouettes of trees, and they say that it’s a psyllid.” He continued that he was worried about his own crops of mandarin oranges and lemons, saying, “There’s a lot of unknowns.”

The pest has not spread to Northern California as yet, but has been found in Southern California, with one case of “citrus greening.” 

State and federal officials are counterattacking the Asian citrus psyllid with wasps from Pakistan that lay eggs under the psyllids.

UC Davis professor Lynn Kimsey explained that the wasp is “like a big parasite and eventually eats the larva…pupates inside, and then eventually a little adult wasp comes out of the psyllid.” 

She added, “But the truth of the matter is this psyllid, is a little, tiny, maybe an eighth of an inch long optimistically, insect. It’s very small for being so potentially devastating.”

The wasps are being tried in Southern California. Kimsey asserted that it is unlikely the Asian citrus psyllid can be eliminated, but the goal is to keep the population meager so that trees are protected.