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Pest Deadly to Citrus Trees Found in San Luis Obispo County

ARROYO GRANDE, Calif. - A new concern is on the minds of citrus farmers in San Luis Obispo County. A tiny insect that has already been found in Santa Barbara County and across the country has now moved further north.

That insect is the Asian citrus psyllid, a pest that carries a disease that kills citrus trees. There is no cure for the disease. It's  a big problem for the citrus industry in Florida, and was first found in California in 2008. Since then, it's travelled as far north as Santa Maria, until now, when it was found in a trap at the Falcon Ridge Estates in
Arroyo Grande.

Jacqueline Frederick is the owner of Clamshell Farms in Nipomo. Most of Frederick's 20,000 trees in her orchard are citrus. The recent news has her taking extra precautions. Making sure the thousands of trees on her property are safe is a daily challenge. Trees with insect traps attached to them are checked almost daily by a maintenance worker.

'We have someone who is here 6 days a week that works full time. That's his primary job, looking at the trees constantly to make sure they're in good health, make sure we don't have any pests going on," said Frederick. "In addition, we have a pest control advisor who also periodically, probably once a month, comes out and also takes a look at the trees."

Citrus is a $13-million industry in San Luis Obispo County. To protect that, the Agriculture Department plans to spray pesticides about a half mile around the site. It has 200 insect traps out in a 9-mile radius from the first discovery, and for the next 2 years no citrus can leave the 5 miles around Falcon Ridge Estates without a full government inspection.

Jacqueline will continue her personal inspections as well.

"It's vigilance. That's the way it is in farming. It's always being vigilant about any number of things that can happen," said Frederick. "This is just another thing we need to be vigilant about."

Right now, experts do not think local citrus growers will see any financial impact unless the situation gets a lot worse.

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