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Scientists search for an odor Asian citrus psyllids cannot resist

New chemical attractants could make a better Asian citrus psyllid trap.
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources scientists based at UC Riverside are honing in on odors that might lure Asian citrus psyllids into traps, and other odors that will keep them away from citrus trees, reported Mark Muckenfuss in the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

Anandasankar Ray, professor in the Department of Entomology at UCR, along with two other researchers, published results recently that Ray believes are promising enough they may soon be adapted for grower use.

Ray and his team tested three attractant odors in El Monte backyards using yellow sticky traps. More than twice the number of psyllids were found in the scented traps compared to unscented traps, the article said. In time the researchers will also test chemicals that can mask odors that are pleasant to Asian citrus psyllids and some that repel the insects.

Other research projects underway at UC Riverside to combat Asian citrus psyllid and the disease it can spread were also noted in the Press-Enterprise article. They are: biological controls, including a tiny wasp imported from Pakistan that feeds on the psyllids; insecticides; developing resistant strains of citrus trees; finding a way to kill the bacteria spread by psyllids once it is in the tree; and discovering ways to identify diseased trees earlier.

Posted on Thursday, October 30, 2014 at 2:19 PM

California pest invasion rate increasing

Introduction of new invasive pests into California seems to be increasing, reported Todd Fitchette in Western Farm Press. The story was based on presentations at the recent professional crop advisors convention in Anaheim by UC Cooperative Extension specialists Mark Hoddle and UC Riverside entomology professor Richard Stouthamer.

Before 1989, Hoddle said, California saw about six new pest invasions per year. The number has risen to about 10 per year, and the cost amounts to about $3 billion annually.

Asian citrus psyllid, a relatively recent invader in California, has farmers particularly worried because of the pest's ability to spread the lethal bacterial disease huanglongbing in citrus. In late 2011, Hoddle's lab began releasing a natural enemy of the psyllid he collected in the Punjab, Pakistan, a stingless wasp called Tamarixia radiata.

According to the Western Farm Press article, Hoddle is now studying a second natural enemy of ACP -  Diaphorencyrtus aligarhensis - in quarantine at UC Riverside.

Stouthamer is studying another troublesome invasive pest in California, the polyphagous shot hole borer. The pest attacks many tree species that shade California streets, landscapes and parks; their greatest threat to agricultural production appears to be in avocados.

At the meeting, Hoddle said there is a growing and vocal minority of ecologists who believe invasive species are not such a serious problem, Fitchette wrote.

“They think we should just relax and let them install themselves in the environment and do whatever they like,” Hoddle said. “I think that's a wrong viewpoint to be taking with a lot of these organisms.”

UC Cooperative Extension specialist Mark Hoddle inspects a citrus tree for insects.
Posted on Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 9:05 AM

Nightmare in midtown: Brown marmorated stink bugs

A Sacramento report considers brown marmorated stink bug worthy of a Halloween creature feature.
A population of invasive brown marmorated stink bugs have settled in Sacramento's mid-town, a development that Sacramento Bee writer Debbie Arrington says is "worthy of a Halloween creature feature."

"Wow, I'm being overwhelmed with calls about brown marmorated stink bugs getting into people's home, as well as restaurants and businesses," said Chuck Ingels, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Sacramento County. "It's that time of year again!"

When days get shorter and cooler, the BMSB start looking for a place to spend the winter. Frequently, that's inside homes and buildings.

Ingels told the reporter he is keeping track of the BMSB invasion. Residents are asked to fill in an online survey to report BMSB finds. For identification help, residents may deliver BMSB in a sealed plastic bag or container to the UCCE office, 4145 Branch Center Road, Sacramento, or they can email clear photos to

Ingels said fairly large populations of BMSB have been found in Citrus Heights near Auburn Boulevard and River Park north and west of CSU Sacramento.

"Most of the others are single finds," he said.

For more information on BMSB identification and management, read a Pest Note posted by the UC Integrated Pest Management program.

Posted on Monday, October 27, 2014 at 10:38 AM

California's three-part drought survival plan

Anglers hike down to the water's edge at the San Luis Reservoir. The reservoir is at 30 percent of capacity.
National Public Radio reporter Kurt Siegler spoke to the director of the UC California Institute for Water Resources, Doug Parker, to set the stage for a five-minute report on the California drought for All Things Considered. (The story is embedded below.)

In California, Siegler reported, water is moved through a network of dams, canals and pipes from the places where it rains and snows, to places where it is needed, like farms and cities.

"The system that we have was designed back in the 1930s through 1950s to meet population and land use needs of the time," Parker said. "Now things have changed in the state and that system really hasn't evolved to keep up with the times in California."

The system was designed when the California population was about 10 million. Now the population is 38 million. It was also designed during an unusually wet period of history.

"And the question is, how is that system going to perform in 2050?" Parker said.

The story outlines three ways the state is coping with the drought:

  • A $7 billion water bond to upgrade that massive infrastructure system is on the Nov. 4 ballot. The measure would pay for building two new large reservoirs and the expansion of dozens more. There is also tens of millions of dollars earmarked for water recycling and reuse.
  • Efficiency, such as capturing urban waste water, treating it and using it on farms. Passage of the water bond will allow for this strategy to expand.
  • Water conservation. The example Siegler gave was an executive order by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, which aims to cut freshwater use in his city by 20 percent in the next three years.

Listen to the NPR story here:



Posted on Thursday, October 23, 2014 at 8:50 AM

Reporter ponders UC Cooperative Extension pepper research

Capsaicin, the yellow line of fluid, gives jalapeƱo peppers their heat.
A column in the Salinas Californian playfully reflected on UC Cooperative Extension research that aims to turn up the heat in the mighty jalapeño pepper.

Writer Dennis Taylor reported that Aziz Baameur, UCCE farm advisor in Santa Clara and San Benito counties, is trying to increase the Scoville units in hot peppers by adjusting on-farm practices.

"The trend lately is toward hotter items," said Jeff Sanders of George Chiala Farms in Morgan Hill, the site of the research project.

Taylor waxes on about super hot peppers that are being grown around the world - including the current record holder, according to Guinness, the Carolina Reaper, which is 900 times hotter than the jalapeño.

He wrote that he asked a newsroom colleague, UCCE Master Gardener Laramie Trevino, whether she would prefer more heat in jalapeños, and he mentioned a plan to call Baameur and Sanders to learn more about the motives behind their research work.

For more information about the hot pepper research, see: Some like it hotter: UC Cooperative Extension tries to grow a spicier jalapeño.

Posted on Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 4:39 PM

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