A citrus disease that has killed millions of citrus trees and cost growers billions of dollars across Florida and Brazil has been detected in California, despite the industry’s best efforts to keep it at bay, the Associated Press reported April 1. After a week of testing the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed citrus greening was detected in a lemon-grapefruit hybrid tree in a residential neighborhood of Los Angeles County. The disease stands to threaten not only California’s nearly $2 billion citrus industry but backyard trees scattered throughout the state.
“Huanlongbing is called the world’s worst disease of citrus,” said an official with the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The bacterial disease is carried by the Asian citrus psyllid and attacks a tree’s vascular system, producing bitter fruit and eventually killing the tree. Sap-sucking pysllids that feed on an infected tree become carriers of the disease. The disease is present in Mexico and across the southern U.S., but nowhere is the problem more severe than in Florida, where the disease first appeared in 2005.
The University of Florida estimates it has cost 6,600 jobs, $1.3 billion in lost revenue to growers, and $3.6 billion in lost economic activity. The pest and the disease also are present in Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, and South Carolina. The states of Arizona, Mississippi, and Alabama have detected the pest but not the disease.