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

Posts Tagged: citrus

ACP Control Soon?

VISALIA – Last week's California Citrus Conference marked a major milestone for growers, and it wasn't just the 50th anniversary of the Visalia-based Citrus Research Board (CRB). It was a resounding revelation that new research may cure the greatest threat to the citrus industry in the next few years.

Michelle Heck, a molecular biologist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service, discusses her research to breed a new citrus pest that does not transmit the fatal tree disease known as huanglongbing. Photo by Michael Alvarez.

Michelle Heck, a molecular biologist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service, discusses her research to breed a new citrus pest that does not transmit the fatal tree disease known as huanglongbing. Photo by Michael Alvarez.

Michelle Heck, PhD, told the crowd of citrus growers at the Wyndham Hotel on Oct. 10 that her team might only need that much time to inbreed a generation of Asian citrus psyllids that are incapable of transmitting the deadly tree disease known as huanglongbing (HLB). The disease has already destroyed China's citrus industry, decimated Florida and Texas growing regions and is currently killing the citrus industry in Brazil.

One grower commented, “China's been dealing with this for 100 years and Brazil for 14 years. We've had this for four to five years in California and we are already knocking on the door of nailing it. That's impressive!”

Heck, a molecular biologist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service, was the first to lead a team of scientists to study the proteins involved in the interaction of the pest, plant and pathogen. One of those proteins creates a blue color in the blood of some psyllids. Her research revealed that psyllids containing the blue protein are far less efficient at transmitting HLB to the plant than others. She then bred those psyllids and took their progency and raised them on orange jasmine hedges, better known as Murraya, a plant the psyllids are attracted but is HLB resistant. The combination of the pest and plant reduced transmission of HLB to healthy citrus leaves from 32% to 2.9%.

Heck said the next steps are to continue breeding the pests that are poor transmitters of the disease to create a line of psyllids that do not transmit HLB at all. She said it would take another two years to breed an “optimized line” of the psyllid but once that was complete, that line could begin mass breeding for release.

“By sheer numbers, we can tip the scales [in the fight against HLB],” she said, “but it's unknown if these lines will out compete other psyllids [in the field].”

One grower asked if the non-transmitting line of the pest would be considered a genetically modified organism, or GMO, a distinction that could hurt fruit grown in groves with the new pest. Heck said all of the psyllids would be bred natuarally, so there is no genetic alteration of the insect itself.

“This is something the anti-GMO groups should feel good about,” Heck said.

Best Case Scenario

Victoria Hornbaker, Statewide Citrus Program Manager for the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), called the current HLB situation in California a best case scenario. She said the Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Program's (CPDPP) No. 1 priority is to quickly detect and remove diseased trees. Shortly after the discovery of the first HLB tree in 2012, California's myriad of citrus agencies worked together to quickly implement measures to control movement of fruit and nursery stock, monitor and suppress the ACP population, and begin working on ways to detect the disease and possibly cure it.

“Instead of all commercial groves being covered by a quarantine, we said we're going to quarantine the whole state,” Hornbaker said.

By limiting the movement of citrus in and out of different quarantine zones, there is less likelihood of transporting trees from an infected area to an uninfected area. If any infected trees are discovered, they are removed, destroyed and replaced with a healthy tree. There are many early detection techniques (EDTs) being studied throughout the country, including looking for patterns in leaves, chemicals produced by trees in response to HLB, and studying molecules of the bacteria causing the disease. A recent analysis of these EDTs showed that most are about 95% effective in identifying an infected tree, and that losing 5% of healthy trees is an acceptable loss compared to devastation caused by the disease spreading unchecked.

While early detection methods of ACP are still being perfected, the fight to control the spread of the psyllid is not. After research identified the microscopic parasitic wasp radiate terminaxia as the natural enemy of the psyllid, they began working to mass produce and release them. To date, more than 11 million wasps have bee released in citrus growing regions since 2013, the closest being in Kern County.

Reproduced from Sun Gazette:

Attached Files


Posted on Friday, October 19, 2018 at 8:22 AM
  • Author: Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN
Tags: ACP (48), Asian Citrus Psyllid (35), citrus (274), HLB (39), huanglongbing (37)

Avocado in Southern California - 1911


In 1911, the avocado was a relatively new crop in Southern California and the great USDA plant explorer Wilson Popenoe (pronounced POP e Noe according to Jack Shepherd), describes avocado culture and its problems

This is from the first volume ever of the Pomona Journal of Economic Botany which also has a nice description of "wither tip" of citrus in Santa Paula.


Cover Avocado in Southern California - Wilson Popenoe
Cover Avocado in Southern California - Wilson Popenoe

Posted on Wednesday, October 17, 2018 at 5:47 AM
Tags: avocado (127), citrus (274), disease (32), horticulture (2), propagation (1)

Got Brush? Fire Clearance and Tree Pruning CREW


Got trees/brush to remove?


The CREW is ready to work:     


With a decline in federal funding to work on Forest Service lands and elsewhere our local non-profit, The CREW is looking for work.  They are great at getting all kinds of brush cleared, trees removed and as a non-profit their rates are reasonable.  In hiring The CREW you are helping train a new generation of folks to use saws and work in the field. 

If you have need for dead trees/limbs to be removed, one local resource is The C.R.E.W. - Concerned Resource & Environmental Workers. Since 1991 this Ojai-based nonprofit has provided paid employment to young people in conservation and forestry work. With a workforce trained in chainsaw use for fire abatement, The C.R.E.W. is available at a reasonable fee to take down trees and limbs in orchards. They also have a chipper.

The C.R.E.W. works throughout Ventura and Southern Santa Barbara counties. In fact, The C.R.E.W. was hired in 2016 by California Citrus Mutual to take out neglected orange trees on private property to limit growers' exposure to ACP/HLB. 

If you're interested in learning more, contact Todd Homer at or call 805-649-8847. 


CREW Equipment Ready

The CREW does great fire clearance.




Posted on Monday, October 8, 2018 at 5:21 AM
Tags: avocado (127), citrus (274), fire clearance (1), pruning (5)

Credit Worthy Webinars - Citrus/Avocado Pests and Diseases

What Are the Ag Experts Talking About?

Event NameDate
UC Ag Expert talks about citrus thrips 10/17/2018

What is involved in the webinars?

A series of 1 hour webinars will highlight various pest management and horticultural topics for citrus and avocados.  During each session, a UC Expert on the subject will make a presentation and entertain write-in questions via chat during and/or after the presentation. As we develop this program, we may expand to other crops.  These programs are open to all, but are geared to those individuals, such as PCAs and Growers who need CEUs.

Topics: pests and diseases of citrus and avocados

What are the topics and how do I register?

Citrus Thrips - October 17, 2018 at 3 pm

Register in advance for this webinar by clicking on the event link above.

Are there Continuing Education units?

When the subject discusses pest or disease management, continuing education units will be requested from DPR (1 unit per session).  Participants will pre-register, participate in the webinar and be awarded the unit.  The sessions will be recorded and hosted on this web site for future study.  However, continuing education units will be awarded only to the participants who attend the live version of the webinar.  

Who is involved?

This webinar series is brought to you by Ben Faber (UC ANR Ventura Advisor) and Dr. Beth Grafton-Cardwell (Depart of Entomology UC Riverside Extension Specialist) with the technical support of Petr Kosina (UC IPM Contect Development Supervisor) and Cheryl Reynolds (UC IPM Interactive Learning Developer).

 Photo: The mighty citrusthrips - Scirtothrips citri


Attached Files
citrus thrips

citrus thrips
citrus thrips

Posted on Wednesday, September 26, 2018 at 7:38 AM
  • Author: Beth Grafton-Cardwell
Tags: avocado (127), citrus (274), disease (32), pest (6), webinar (1)

Wild Fire Effect on Soils?

Low-severity wildland fires and prescribed burns have long been presumed by scientists and resource managers to be harmless to soils, but this may not be the case, new research shows.

According to two new studies by a team from the University of California, Merced (UCM) and the Desert Research Institute (DRI), low-severity burns - in which fire moves quickly and soil temperature does not exceed 250oC (482oF) - cause damage to soil structure and organic matter in ways that are not immediately apparent after a fire.

"When you have a high-severity fire, you burn off the organic matter from the soil and the impact is immediate," said Teamrat Ghezzehei, Ph.D., principal investigator of the two studies and Associate Professor of Environmental Soil Physics at UCM. "In a low-severity fire, the organic matter doesn't burn off, and there is no visible destruction right away. But the burning weakens the soil structure, and unless you come back at a later time and carefully look at the soil, you wouldn't notice the damage."

DRI researcher Markus Berli, Ph.D., Associate Research Professor of Environmental Science, became interested in studying this phenomenon while visiting a burned area near Ely, Nev. in 2009, where he made the unexpected observation that a prescribed, low-severity fire had resulted in soil structure damage in the burned area. He and several colleagues from DRI conducted a follow-up study on another controlled burn in the area, and found that soil structure that appeared to be fine immediately after a fire but deteriorated over the weeks and months that followed. Berli then teamed up with Ghezzehei and a team from UCM that included graduate student Mathew Jian, and Associate Professor Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, Ph.D., to further investigate.

Soil consists of large and small mineral particles (gravel, sand, silt, and clay) which are bound together by organic matter, water and other materials to form aggregates. When soil aggregates are exposed to severe fires, the organic matter burns, altering the physical structure of the soil and increasing the risk of erosion in burned areas. In low-severity burn areas where organic matter doesn't experience significant losses, the team wondered if the soil structure was being degraded by another process, such as by the boiling of water held within soil aggregates?

In a study published in AGU Geophysical Research Letters in May 2018, the UCM-DRI team investigated this question, using soil samples from an unburned forest area in Mariposa County, Calif. and from unburned shrubland in Clark County, Nev. to analyze the impacts of low-severity fires on soil structure. They heated soil aggregates to temperatures that simulated the conditions of a low-severity fire (175oC/347oF) over a 15-minute period, then looked for changes in the soil's internal pore pressure and tensile strength (the force required to pull the aggregate apart).

During the experiment, they observed that pore pressure within the soil aggregates rose to a peak as water boiled and vaporized, then dropped as the bonds in the soil aggregates broke and vapor escaped. Tensile strength measurements showed that the wetter soil aggregates had been weakened more than drier soil samples during this process.

"Our results show that the heat produced by low-severity fires is actually enough to do damage to soil structure, and that the damage is worse if the soils are wet," Berli explained. "This is important information for resource managers because it implies that prescribed burns and other fires that occur during wetter times of year may be more harmful to soils than fires that occur during dry times."Next, the research team wondered what the impact of this structural degradation was on the organic matter that the soil structure normally protects. Soil organic matter consists primarily of microbes and decomposing plant tissue, and contributes to the overall stability and water-holding capacity of soils.

In a second study that was published in Frontiers in Environmental Science in late July, the UCM-DRI research team conducted simulated burn experiments to weaken the structure of the soil aggregates, and tested the soils for changes in quality and quantity of several types of organic matter over a 70-day period.

They found that heating of soils led to the release of organic carbon into the atmosphere as CO2 during the weeks and months after the fire, and again found that the highest levels of degradation occurred in soils that were moist. This loss of organic carbon is important for several reasons, Ghezzehei explained.

"The loss of organic matter from soil to the atmosphere directly contributes to climate change, because that carbon is released as CO2," Ghezzehei said. "Organic matter that is lost due to fires is also the most important reserve of nutrients for soil micro-organisms, and it is the glue that holds soil aggregates together. Once you lose the structure, there are a lot of other things that happen. For example, infiltration becomes slower, you get more runoff, you have erosion."

Although the research team's findings showed several detrimental effects of fire on soils, low-severity wildfires and prescribed burns are known to benefit ecosystems in other ways -- recycling nutrients back into the soil and getting rid of overgrown vegetation, for example. It is not yet clear whether the negative impacts on soil associated with these low-severity fires outweigh the positives, Berli says, but the team hopes that their research results will help to inform land managers as they manage wildfires and plan prescribed burns.

"There is very little fuel in arid and semi-arid areas, and thus fires tend to be short lived and relatively low in peak temperature," Ghezzehei said. "In contrast to the hot fires and that burn for days and weeks that we see in the news, these seem to be benign and we usually treat them as such. Our work shows that low-severity fires are not as harmless as they may appear."

The study, "Soil Structural Degradation During Low?Severity Burns," was published on May 31, 2018 in the journal AGU Geophysical Research Letters and is available here:

The study, "Vulnerability of Physically Protected Soil Organic Carbon to Loss Under Low Severity Fires," was published July 19, 2018 in the journal Frontiers in Environmental Science, and is available here:

firefighters in avocado grove
firefighters in avocado grove

Posted on Friday, September 14, 2018 at 6:55 AM
Tags: avocado (127), citrus (274), fire (9), soil (2)

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