Citrus Bug

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There’s been a dramatic increase in western Arizona of a bug that can do tremendous damage to citrus trees. The Asian Citrus Psyllid carries greening disease, otherwise known as Huanglongbing. Once a tree is infected it will die. The disease could damage our state’s Citrus crop, one of the Five Cs that adds $37 million dollars a year to Arizona’s economy. John Caravett, a of the Arizona Department of Agriculture, will tell us more.

Ted Simons: A pest is threatening one of Arizona's five Cs, the Asian citrus Syll-id is showing up in alarming numbers in certain areas of western Arizona. Here to tell us more is John Caravetta of the Arizona Department of Agriculture. How alarming are these numbers?

John Caravett: Since Arizona's agricultural economy is about 10.2 billion in size, we have a $37 million citrus fruit production industry here, and this very small insect carries a big wallop.

Ted Simons: Talk about this insect. How small?

John Caravett: it's about the size of a ends of a ballpoint pen. It convey as disease that can kill mature citrus trees.

Ted Simons: Where did this insect come from?

John Caravett: The insect originates from Asia, Saudi Arabia, sub tropical areas of the globe. Most recently detected in the United States, particularly Florida and California. Now in Arizona.

Ted Simons: We're seeing traps in groves. The best way to fight this is to know where it is, you're starting to find them.

John Caravett: we are. We have about 9,000 traps around the state at any given time. The best way to find them is continue with that process. We found them in western Arizona most recently.

Ted Simons: western Arizona, Yuma? What other parts of western Arizona?

John Caravett: Yuma in about 2009. Now in Lake Havasu city in about a 20-mile area in Lake Havasu city currently.

Ted Simons: I understand that this has been in Arizona for a while. There was a quarantine in 2009?

John Caravett: There was. Our first detections were in San Luis, Arizona down in southwestern Yuma County. The quarantine was established in southwestern Yuma County. Then we now have a new quarantine area in the Lake Havasu city area.

Ted Simons: The one in 2009 did seem to work?

John Caravett: Very effective at controlling and containing the insect, allowing us to eradicate it.

Ted Simons: How does the insect damage citrus? What does it do and how do you know if you got it?

John Caravett: Well, the insect is very small to see. It feeds in a pumping motion, sucking out of a straw it will suck the juices out of the citrus tree. It also has the ability to reinject the tree with the citrus Greening disease should it be carrying it. That's always fatal to a tree.

Ted Simons: Citrus greening, -- means the leaves, the branches - the fruit. What is too green?

John Caravett: What will happens is the tree will turn bright yellow, and in Chinese it is huanglongbing, called yellow dragon disease. The tree will take on a very bright yellow coloration and the fruit will taste like you are drinking cough syrup.

Ted Simons: Oh my goodness, and once this happens the tree is gone?

John Caravett: It's very close to being gone.

Ted Simons: Wow. So we do have a quarantine in effect now for parts of Yuma and Havasu?

John Caravett: We do. Parts of Lake Havasu and parts of Yuma. It's not been found in central Arizona at this time.

Ted Simons: folks with citrus groves or plants and trees at their homes, no worries as yet.

John Caravett: No worries as yet. We have not found any of the insects carrying the disease so the home own has the chance to manage the insect as a nuisance, if you will.

Ted Simons: You're looking for the public to help in certain ways, correct?

John Caravett: we are. The public has been outstanding helping us eradicate this in Yuma and in Lake Havasu city. We're looking for the public's participation in buying local fruit, buying fruit that's either commercially processed that you get at the grocery store or buying your citrus trees or plants from local nurseries where they have gone through the proper cleaning procedures and safeguarding procedures that make it safe to plant those things.

Ted Simons: So buy only inspected, certified citrus plants when you are buying the plants as well

John Caravett: Correct.

Ted Simons: I notice don't ship personal citrus plants. Is that the recommendation, what is that all about?

John Caravett: Well, homeowners generally like to pull their own citrus out of their trees, maybe send it to a relative in another state, perhaps another state that grows citrus. We're asking the public not to do that because they could move the insect along with the fruit and the pretty leaves that come with it. It's a really nice table decoration as well.

Ted Simons: as far as the quarantine effect and fighting this particular pest, when do you know you've won or lost?

John Caravett: We know we have won when our trapping tells us that we have not found any more after we good through and we do our treatments and so forth. Then we know that we have a handle on the situation. That takes time.

Ted Simons: When you have had the Greening disease, you know, citrus Orchard looks like it's been infected and the greening diseases are showing up is it a cycle? Does it last for years? Can it be eradicated quickly? What do you do?

John Caravett: It's easy to eradicate once you know a tree is infected because the tree has to be removed. Then you try to keep the Syll-id's under control. It's like introducing flu to a group of kids in a classroom. One person can spread it fairly quickly.

Ted Simons: good luck fighting this thing. We want to keep it out of our backyards for sure.

John Caravett: Thank you.

John Caravett:Arizona Department of Agriculture;

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