News

State looks to continue local citrus quarantine

By Heather Pape
La Habra Journal

The citrus quarantine affecting Los Angeles and Orange counties that was originally declared the last two years may continue for double the amount of time some had originally expected.
Two years ago, the Huanglongbing Disease (HLB), a disease that kills citrus trees, was discovered at a Hacienda Heights’ residence, and since then, a large amount of the surrounding area has been under quarantine. Ninety miles of Los Angeles County and three miles of Orange County have been contained so the bacterium does not spread further.
HLB is also commonly known as the citrus greening disease because it attacks the tree’s vascular system, causing deformed, bitter fruit before killing the tree. There is no cure for HLB. The bacterial blight is commonly transmitted by an insect known as the Asian citrus psyllids. They are gnat-sized, flying pests that first appeared on domestic fruit trees in California in 2008. They have been known carriers of the disease.

Because of an HLB epidemic that descended on Florida over the last few years, the $2 billion California citrus industry appeared to be in danger after finding the case in Hacienda Heights. According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), since the quarantine began in April 2012, no other cases of contaminated trees have been reported since the initial find.
According to Victoria Hornbaker, the citrus program manager for the CDFA, the CDFA is taking proactive measures to make sure any traces of the disease are identified so the virus can be contained within the quarantine boundaries.
“Within a mile and a half, every tree is getting sampled for the disease,” Hornbaker said. “We are doing a zone defense around that initial find. The initial find tree was removed and destroyed. Every host plant within 400 meters of that original find is getting tested six times a year.”
The CDFA is being thorough and cautious with how it tests trees, in order to continue the two-year-long disease-free streak. Hornnbaker states that the reason for the continued quarantine is that the disease may remain inactive for two to five years before a tree begins to show symptoms of HLB.
“Biologically, it would not be a sound decision to remove the quarantine in Hacienda Heights at this time,” said Hornbaker. “We are going to continue with the quarantine. We need to be out there…surveying and looking for plants that are showing symptoms. We are going to be sampling plants and we are also going to be collecting psyllids and testing psyllids to determine whether or not if they are positive for the bacteria.”
For those who live within the quarantine zone, the CDFA prohibits the movement of all nursery stock out of the quarantined zone, with the exception of commercially cleaned and packed citrus fruit. Fruit that is not commercially cleaned and packed, including residential citrus, is not allowed to be removed from the property on which it is grown. The CDFA also asks that residents look for symptoms of the HLB disease their trees might be experiencing. They will drop the quarantine as soon as they feel California’s citrus is safe.

Started in 1995, the La Habra Journal is an independent community news source serving the cities of La Habra and La Habra Heights.