- Author: Chris M. Webb
In 1823, Florida became the first state to plant a commercial citrus grove. The industry and its challenges spread across the southern states of Louisiana, Texas, Arizona and California. Because these areas include many international ports of entry, because of their proximity to international borders and because of their favorable climate, the risk of introduction and establishment of invasive pests and diseases is heightened. In recent years Florida has returned to its status of first in the US: unfortunately Florida has been the first to be hit by many of the potentially disastrous pests facing the citrus industry.
The Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP), carrier of huanglongbing (HLB) (also known as citrus greening disease), was first discovered in Florida in June of 1998. (See previous blog post “An introduction to the Asian Citrus Psyllid” for details on the insect and disease.)The discovered psyllid tested negative for HLB. At that time the industry in Florida was attempting to eradicate another disease, citrus canker. Some people were unhappy with the aggressive battle against citrus canker, however, and in November 2000, an injunction on inspections and eradication was implemented in Broward County, which may be when and where the Florida HLB epidemic began.
In October 2005, HLB was known to exist in two counties. By the time it was discovered, however, the problem was well established. By August 2008, 32 counties were infected.
In late 2005 and early 2006 key citrus stakeholders formed the Citrus Health Response Program (CHRP). This organization’s focus is a holistic approach to protecting the industry: developing and implementing minimum standards for inspection, regulatory oversight, disease management, and education and training. The goals are developed by five sub-working groups:
- Nursery and Budwood Working Group
- Production Practices Working Group
- Packing Working Group
- Processing Working Group
- Harvesting Working Group
- Residential Citrus Working Group
Common themes within CHRP are:
- The need for education and training, research, and a balance of regulatory oversight with industry due diligence
- Flexibility in adjusting to new information
- Requirements that are based on sound science and the principles of plant quarantine
It is important that we in California and other citrus-producing states learn from the hard lessons Florida is experiencing. The ACP has already been found in our state. Although HLB has not yet been detected, our response must also be organized, science-based, and flexible to sustain an important California industry.