Subtropical Fruit Crops Research & Education
University of California
Subtropical Fruit Crops Research & Education

Topics in Subtropics Blog


Dr. Gary Bender, UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) Farm Advisor Emeritus, is the lead instructor for a six-week course entitled “Avocado Production for New Growers.” Co-instructor, Sonia Rios, current subtropical Farm Advisor, Riverside/San Diego Counties will also be teaching in the course. The course is designed for new avocado growers, as well as those interested in learning more about avocado production best practices and meeting fellow growers.

The six-week course consists of six, two-hour sessions and will be held in Fallbrook, CA this year. The fee for the course is $105 and includes two avocado books, an IPM book and a post-harvest handbook. Final dates and the location will be announced soon. The always fills up, so please register A.S.A.P.

Topics include:

  • Introduction to Agriculture in San Diego County, History of Avocado Production in California
  • Botany, Flowering, Varieties, Harvest Dates, Rootstocks 
  • Irrigation Systems, Irrigation Scheduling, Salinity Management
  • Fertilization, Organic Production
  • Weed, Insect and Mite Control, Disease Control
  • Ag Waiver Water School Training (Dr. Loretta Bates)
  • Canopy Management, Tree Spacing, Frost Management
  • Field trip to High Density Trial grove and a commercial grove

For more information, contact Erin Thompson at 858.822.7919 or

Posted on Tuesday, April 25, 2017 at 8:53 AM

Biological Control of Giant Reed- Arundo

Editor: Guy B Kyser

The giant invasive grass arundo (Arundo donax), one of the weeds targeted under the USDA-ARS-funded Delta Region Areawide Aquatic Weed Project (DRAAWP), has been re-acquainted with one of its natural enemies imported from arundo's native range. A tiny insect called the arundo armored scale (Rhizaspidiotus donacis) has been successfully released in the Sacramento River watershed and in the Delta.

Arundo forms dense stands across at least 10,000 acres in California, and over 100,000 acres in other arid riparian areas such as the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas and Mexico. Other control methods such as herbicide application, mechanical removal, mowing or burning have been used to reduce arundo populations in California, costing tens of millions of dollars. However, arundo is a tough plant and takes advantage of human disturbance and fire in riparian habitats along creeks, sloughs, rivers and reservoirs. Arundo populations in California thus exceed the capacity of these other control methods. In the absence of control, arundo consumes and wastes scarce water – a single plant can consume as much water as corn when growing in moist soil under hot, sunny conditions. Dense arundo stands block access to water for irrigation and recreation, and also obstruct flood control structures such as drainage ditches. Arundo also displaces native plants and animals and alters geomorphology and water flow dynamics in riparian habitats in ways that make it difficult for the natives to come back even if the arundo is controlled.

Biological control of invasive weeds focuses on the characterization, release and evaluation of insects (or plant pathogens) from the weed's native range into areas where the weed is non-native. The arundo armored scale was collected originally in southern France, Spain, and Italy. Studies by Spanish collaborators showed that, even in its native range with its own natural enemies, the arundo armored scale reduces shoot growth and rhizome size by 50%.

Biological control agents undergo rigorous testing to ensure they are not a threat to native plants or crops. After a permit review process, the USDA granted a permit for field release of arundo armored scale in 2010. (This is one of two insects that have been released for biological control of arundo in North America.) Since 2011, this biological control agent has been released in the Lower Rio Grande Basin. Initial releases of this agent in California began in 2014, and it was found that the scale insect had become established at one site in the northern Sacramento Valley by November of that year.

Armored scales are small insects that spend most of their lives in an immobile state, covered by their waxy secretions (‘armor'). Adult females produce ‘crawlers' that disperse locally (typically just a few feet) to find new buds coming up from the arundo rhizomes or lateral shoot buds above ground. The crawlers then lose their legs and antennae and insert their stylet-like mouthparts into the arundo tissue to feed on the fluids in the plant's vascular system. Crawlers molt to a second immature phase, and about six to eight weeks later, short-lived adult males emerge from their armor and mate with the immobile adult females. The females continue to feed and slowly develop embryos. A new generation of crawlers then emerges from the females. The life cycle takes four to six months.

Life stages of the arundo armored scale


Top row, left to right: Tiny (0.5 mm) crawlers emerge from females and settle on rhizomes or lateral shoots. Second-instar immature scales continue to feed and expand. Winged adult males emerge from their oyster-like scale covering. Females (armored scale cover removed) are shriveled and skinny right after molting. Mature females are plump and turn a darker color when they are full of crawlers ready to emerge. Bottom row, left to right: Adult females form aggregations on arundo rhizomes and shoots. The presence of armored scale populations causes shoot distortion and reduces both shoot growth and rhizome size.


In 2015, we tested a new release technique using arundo ‘microplants'. We soaked arundo shoot fragments in water for one month, then planted them in pots where they produced new shoot buds and roots. Armored scale crawlers were released onto the microplants. After about six months, we planted the infested microplants at field sites in the Delta – Andrus Island on the Sacramento River, and at Big Break near Oakley – and along Stony Creek in Glenn and Butte Counties north of the Delta. We established the microplants adjacent to large arundo shoots, and we cut off some of the established shoots to encourage production of new rhizome buds and lateral shoots. We watered the microplants as needed to keep them alive for about 6 months.

Production of arundo microplants used to establish arundo armored scale


Left to right: Microplant with gelatin capsules used to isolate scale crawlers from females (capsules had been opened and crawlers poured onto the base of the plant). Greenhouse bench with arundo microplants. Field plot with arundo shoots cut back to promote new shoot and rhizome growth. Base of an arundo shoot at the field site (arrow indicates location of adult female scales that developed from crawlers that had previously came out of the females on the microplants.


Almost one year after planting, in November 2016, we sampled arundo rhizomes and shoots from the areas where the now-dead microplants were placed. At the Sacramento River site, 150 females were found, and at a site on Stony Creek in Butte County, 72 females were found. The females were placed in gelatin capsules to capture crawlers. A total of 1,668 crawlers emerged by early January 2017. Since there are still many more arundo shoots around the microplant sites, these results indicate that the arundo armored scale has established reproductive populations at three sites in California. This is the first establishment of this biocontrol agent in the state. Additional releases are planned throughout the Delta and surrounding watersheds. Along with the arundo wasp (Tetramesa romana), the arundo armored scale is expected to significantly reduce the potential for arundo to grow, disperse and form damaging populations that threaten water resources.

Site survey results - armored scale establishment


This work is conducted under the USDA-ARS-funded Delta Region Areawide Aquatic Weed Project (DRAAWP). This portion of the project is led by Dr. Patrick Moran ( of the USDA-ARS Exotic and Invasive Weeds Research Unit, Albany, CA. Dr. Moran is working with a postdoctoral researcher, Dr. Ellyn Bitume (, on this project. Contact us if you have questions. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy (Beckye Stanton) is collaborating with USDA-ARS to identify field sites in the Delta, connect with landowners, and integrate biological control with their chemical arundo control program. Dr. Moran cooperates with landowners and local Reclamation Districts to obtain access to field sites.


Posted on Monday, April 24, 2017 at 6:29 AM
  • Author: Patrick Moran
Tags: biological control (2), delta (1), environment (1), habitat (1), herbicides (8), invasives (5), irrigation (52), parasite (1), parasitism (2), parasitoid (1), rivers (1), water (32), weed (1)

Soil and Water pH Affect Root Health in HLB Citrus

At the recent HLB Conference in Florida a paper was given that reinforces the need for appropriate soil and water pH to maximize root density and tree health.  The industry there is dominated by a range of rootstocks and by Valencia-like varieties.  Jim Graham and colleagues have shown that pH contributes to orchard health in their HLB situation.  This should be a reminder for California growers for general tree health.  Florida soils tend to be more coarse than soils found in many California orchards.  It's much harder to change soil pH with acidified irrigation water with heavier textured soils.

4.b.1 Soil and water acidification sustain root density of huanglongbing-infected trees in Florida


University of Florida, Citrus Research and Education Center, Lake Alfred, Florida, USA


Abstract: Early symptoms of HLB include fibrous root loss and leaf blotchy mottle, followed by premature fruit and leaf drop, and yield decline. As a consequence of initial bacterial infection of fibrous roots, a 30-50% reduction in fibrous root density and elevated soil Phytophthora populations were detected in field surveys. Continued sampling of Hamlin and Valencia orange trees on Swingle citrumelo rootstock in different stages of HLB decline revealed that root loss occurs in two stages. The second phase of root loss (70-80%) begins at the early stage of tree canopy thinning resulting from leaf drop and branch dieback. A more extensive survey of HLB-affected groves indicated that greater decline in fibrous root health and expression of HLB symptoms is observed where irrigation water is high in bicarbonates (> 100 ppm) and/or soil pH > 6.5. HLB symptom expression of trees on different rootstocks follows the known intolerance to bicarbonate (Swingle citrumelo > Carrizo citrange > sour orange > Cleopatra mandarin). Acidification of irrigation water in central ridge and south central flatwoods Valencia orange groves on Swingle citrumelo rootstock for three seasons has maintained soil pH below 6.5 on the flatwoods and 6.0 on ridge. Over the last three seasons of survey, root density as an index of root heath has been sustained. Phytophthora populations remain below the damaging level in ridge groves and in flatwoods increase to damaging levels coincident with the fall root flush but drop back to non-damaging levels for remainder of the season. Compared to the 2013-14 season, yields in the ridge blocks have increased up to 4% and on the flatwoods have increased up to 22%.Growers using acidification treatments with sulfuric and/or N-phuric acid for the last 3 seasons report an average cost of $60 per acre. This cost will analyzed in relation to yield response to provide a cost benefit of acidification

Non-Technical Summary: Managements have been implemented to reduce soil, nutrient and water stress, and Phytophthora root rot. They include frequent irrigation cycles, fertigation and acidification of irrigation water and soil to reduce rhizosphere pH, and fungicides. Root density of trees under these practices fluctuates seasonally and annually but has not declined over the past 3 years. Trees managed with soil acidification and fertigation have steadily recovered in health and yield.


Posted on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 at 10:07 AM
Tags: acidity (2), ACP (43), alkalinity (1), Asian Citrus Psyllid (27), HLB (27), huanglongbing (36), irrigation (52), nutrients (8), pH (5), soil (14), tree health (1), water (32)

Shoot and Twig Dieback of Citrus

Recently, an outbreak of shoot and twig dieback disease of citrus has been occurring in the main citrus growing regions of the Central Valley of California (Fig 1). The causal agents of this disease were identified as species of Colletotrichum, which are well-known pathogens of citrus and other crops causing anthracnose diseases. At this time, it is unclear how wide-spread the disease is in California citrus orchards, but surveys are being conducted to evaluate the spread of this disease in orchards.

The disease was first noticed in 2012 by several growers and nurserymen in various orchards in the Central Valley. Symptoms included leaf chlorosis, crown thinning, gumming on twigs and shoot dieback, and in severe cases, branch dieback of trees (Fig.2). The most characteristic symptoms of this disease are the gum pockets which appear on young shoots either alone or in clusters and the dieback of twigs and shoots (Fig.3). These symptoms were primarily reported from clementine, mandarin, and navel orange varieties. In order to determine the main cause of this disease, field surveys were conducted in several orchards throughout the Central Valley. Isolations from symptomatic plant samples frequently yielded Colletotrichum species.

            Field observations indicate that symptoms initially appear during the early summer months and continue to express until the early fall. Trees showing dieback and gumming symptoms characteristic of this disease are usually sporadic within an orchard and generally only a few twigs or shoots are affected within a tree. Morphological and molecular phylogenetic studies allowed the identification of two distinct species of Colletotrichum (Colletotrichum karstii and Colletotrichum gloeosporioides) associated with twig and shoot dieback. Interestingly, these Colletotrichum species were also isolated from cankers in larger branches. Although C. gloeosporioides is known to cause anthracnose on citrus, a post-harvest disease causing fruit decay, it has not been reported to cause shoot dieback of citrus. C. karstii however has not been reported previously from citrus in California and our laboratory is currently conducting field and green house studies to determine the pathogenicity of this species in citrus.

            At present, it is unclear how widespread this disease is in California orchards or how many citrus varieties are susceptible to this disease. Pest control advisors are advised to remain alert and monitor citrus trees for the presence of the disease in the Central Valley (particularly clementine, mandarin, and navel varieties) during the early summer months. Continuing research lead by Dr. Akif Eskalen (UC Riverside) in collaboration with Dr. Florent Trouillas (Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center), Dr. Greg Douhan (UCCE Farm Advisor Tulare County), and Craig Kallsen (UCCE Farm Advisor in Kern County) is focused on further understanding the biology of the fungal pathogens as well as factors influencing disease expression in order to develop management strategies against this emerging disease.

Shoot dieback symptoms on Clementine

Branch dieback symptoms on Clementine

Gumming symptoms on Clementine

(photos: A. Eskalen)


Posted on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 at 5:19 AM
  • Author: Joey Mayorquin, Mohamed Nouri, Florent Trouillas, Greg Douhan and Akif Eskalen
Tags: anthracnose (2), anthracnosis (1), blight (6), citrus (168), disease (35), drought (36), fungus (5)

Kaolin Control of Asian Citrus Psyllid

Psyllids as a pest group have very few specific predators that can be used in biocontrol.  Instead there can be some control by generalist predators, like minute pirate bugs, spiders, lady bug beetles and predatory thrips. Predation, though, does not completely remove the pest, in this case Asian Citrus Psyllid.  Leaving a few infected ACP to spread the HLB bacteria to trees, though, is a major problem because tree infection only requires a small amount of bacteria to eventually cause tree death.

Chemical control is being used in most situations for major control of the insect, and thereby the spread of any insects infected with the bacteria causing Huanglongbing. It turns out that pesticides that supplement more traditional modes of action can also be used. Kaolin is a white nonabrasive fine-grained mineral that when is sprayed on the plants forming a particle film. This compound is well known to suppress several species of insects in different crops due to host selection interference.

A recent study in Brazil investigated the influence of two kaolin formulations on the landing and feeding behavior of ACP.  Both kaolin formulations had a repellent effect and interfered with the feeding behavior of ACP on citrus. Kaolin reduced the number of psyllids and protected the citrus plants from insect feeding.  Frequent spray applications on the border of the farm could be an important strategy to reduce HLB spread.  Spraying to control ACP spread on orchard border trees is often critical because this is where infestations often start. Kaolin won't be a replacement for other pesticide sprays, but could be an added tool for controlling the pest and spread of the disease - another integrated management tool.

Spray application of different kaolin formulations on sweet orange plants disrupt the settling and probing behavior of Diaphorina citri

M. Miranda1, O. Zanardi1; H. Volpe1; R. Garcia1; N. Roda2, E. Prado3

1 Fundecitrus, Araraquara, Brazil, 2 Tessenderlo Kerley, Inc./NovaSource, Phoenix, USA, 3 Universidade Federal de Lavras, Lavras, Brazil

Photo: Kaolin spray on Citrus Leaf

Posted on Monday, April 17, 2017 at 6:16 AM
Tags: ACP (43), ACP (43), alternative pest control (1), clay (2), HLB (27), huanglongbing (36), pesticides (17)

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