California Citrus Growers Can Target Residential Trees

California Citrus Growers Can Target Residential Trees

Bayer has partnered with California Citrus Mutual (CCM) on an initiative to remove citrus trees in residential settings that have become infested with Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP).

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Bayer and CCM have combined on a program called Citrus Matters, which includes the Abandoned Citrus Tree (ACT) removal program. Monitoring residential trees is a critical line of defense because more than 60% of California homeowners have citrus trees in their yards – somewhere between 10 million and 20 million trees total.

The ACT removal program allows growers to identify and request removal of abandoned trees that pose a threat to their groves. Such a prophylactic effort is critical because ACP can carry in incurable disease Huanglongbing (HLB), which is threatening California’s $2.4 billion citrus industry.

HLB has been confirmed in 28 California trees, but diligence from growers, homeowners, and industry leaders has so far prevented the disease from appearing in commercial orchards.

“While every growing region has its unique set of challenges and legitimate concerns, the industry is united that stopping Asian Citrus Psyllid and HLB is the priority and certain mitigation activities must be taken to achieve the objective,” said Alyssa Houtby, Director of Public Affairs for CCM.

Growers and homeowners are encouraged to share the hashtag #CitrusMatters to help continue the effort. The Citrus Matters website is an informational resource for growers and homeowners. Visitors can use the site to identify an area for potential tree removal, get the latest news about citrus greening, find sharable images to use on social media, and more.

A number of California grower meetings were held this past fall and featured Florida growers as well as representatives from various disease control and citrus organizations. The key takeaway: The California citrus industry must adjust the way it has been addressing the issue, and that means ACP presence equals HLB presence. The two can no longer be addressed separately.

“There’s much we can learn from what our fellow growers in Florida have gone through in the last decade,” said Steve Olson, Bayer Product Manager. “If we continue to work together on prevention, California citrus will be in a much better position to survive the threat of HLB.”

While many of the Florida panelists have been able to continue farming after HLB devastation, it has come at a significant cost. They urged California growers to be diligent with preventive action to stop the spread. Growers in Florida have been spraying for psyllids up to 14 times per year, and they have found insecticides to be the best method to suppress the psyllid populations, which limits the spread of the vector and the infection levels of the bacterium that causes HLB.

One weapon Bayer can provide in the ACP fight is Movento, an insecticide that has been proven to effectively control populations of ACP. Control of the citrus psyllid is currently the only practical way to stop the spread of HLB.

In 2015, Bayer and CCM launched the #CitrusMatters program to raise awareness of ACP and HLB with California homeowners so that they could increase their understanding about the devastating disease. Citrus Matters made a donation in the same year to help fund research at Cal Poly Pomona that focuses on psyllid control.