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A little bug could be a big problem for citrus growers

Citrus growers raise awareness about little bug that could cause big problem for crops

GOLETA, Calif.-

A little bug is threatening the South Coast's Citris economy.

There are signs that read "Save Our Citrus, dangerous citrus pest found in Goleta" around town.

Zach Rissel of  La Patera Ranch said, "Our ranch is next to a residential neighborhood, we are in partnership with them, we want them to know about the issue and raise awareness with them so they can look at their Citrus too."

The dangerous pest is the Asian Citrus Psyllid or ACP  for short.

Victoria Hornabaker is the division director of Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention and said,  "The asian Citrus Psyllid is a pesky little critter and by itself it can cause some damage by feeding off the citrus, but if it carries the bacteria HLB it will kill the tree."

HLB stands for Huanglongbing meaning yellow dragon sickness. Some call it the Greening Disease.

 "It is probably the biggest risk for us blotchy leaves, thickened veins and lopsided fruit are symptoms," said Rissel. "If you have a sickly tree consider removing it."

The disease has already damaged commercial crops in Florida and Texas and has been detected in backyard citrus in Southern California.

To protect orange, lemon and lime trees along the Central Coast the Department of Food and Agriculture offers free backyard citrus tree inspections.

"Take it seriously and monitor the health of your citrus trees," said Rissel.

It doesn't  take long for inspectors to find a few Asian Citrus Psyllids on leaves.

When they do they put them in a vial that will be sent a lab.

 Since the citrus disease was detected in backyards before spreading, growers are rushing to raise awareness about the threat..

"You really don't want any population to get established in your orchard." said Rissel, " When we find levels that require treatment we have to treat for the pest ."

Growers are putting up hedges and bringing in beneficial pests including non stinging black wasps calld Tamarixia Radiata.

The wasps feed on psyllids like vampires z

" If we can just use tools we have to hold population at bay hopefully science will catch up and we can have a treatment or a cure," said Rissel.

We will have more on this story on the news tonight.

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County
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Tracy Lehr

Tracy Lehr is a reporter and the weekend anchor of News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Tracy, click here

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