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Tiny insect could wipe out lemon crops

By Victoria Sanchez, KEYT NewsChannel 3 Anchor/Reporter, victoriasanchez@keyt.com
Published On: Apr 06 2013 01:45:20 AM CDT
Updated On: Apr 06 2013 02:02:21 AM CDT

Citrus bug could ruin crops

GOLETA, Calif. -

A tiny insect that has caused devastation to citrus crops around the country has found its way to California.

The Asian Citrus Psyllid is no bigger than an eighth of an inch but spreads a disease to citrus trees that makes the fruit bitter.

The aphid-like insect may be small, but packs quite a punch.  It spreads the most devastating disease to citrus trees in the world called citrus greening.

“Symptoms show up as misshapen leaves, misshapen fruit that turns horribly sour and is inedible,” said Guy Tingos, assistant agricultural commissioner.

It’s not harmful to eat, but just doesn’t taste good. Which is a big problem for growers.

“Citrus greening is pretty much a death knell for all citrus, including oranges, mandarins, lemons, any citrus variety is what it attacks,” explained Dale Richards, La Patera Ranch manager.

Since November, nine of the serious pests have been found in Santa Barbara County backyards. But luckily, they haven’t spread to groves or spread the disease just yet. However, it will most likely happen.

“It's a serious threat. It's a really serious threat,” said Richards.

To find where the insect is, bright yellow and very sticky insect traps have been placed among the trees in commercial lemon groves. The county or state will come out to check to see if the Asian Citrus Psyllid is on the trap.

California has a nearly $2 billion citrus industry which is why there is such a big concern.

“Here in Santa Barbara County, we have about 1,400  acres of lemons and the production value there is about $12 million so, we're concerned at a local level as well,” said Tingos.

None of the bugs have turned up on the traps at La Patera Ranch in Goleta and Richards wants to keep all 180 acres of lemon, pest-free.

For more information on the Asian Citrus Psyllid, click here.

Click here for the Santa Barbara County Agricultural Commissioner's Office.

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