Saving citrus from disease

Saving citrus from disease

In 1998, the Asian citrus psyllid arrived in Florida, followed a few years later by the disease it spreads — huanglongbing, also known as HLB, or citrus greening. Because there is no cure, damage caused to the citrus industry in the largest orange-producing state was extensive. By 2019, Florida citrus production decreased by 74%.

To alert Californians about the potential spread of the insect and disease to their own backyard citrus trees, University of California Cooperative Extension launched an information campaign.

In partnership with colleagues at University of Florida and Texas A&M, they published Snapshots — two-page pieces about HLB research. They posted the facts on the Science for Citrus Health website and on Instagram and handed them out at citrus meetings.

In total, 45 Snapshots — focusing on detection, disease and psyllid management and the tools being used — have been published. Extension uploaded videos about HLB to YouTube and started a popular podcast series that interviews HLB researchers about their approaches and their careers. For educators, Extension offers a slide presentation set covering genetics as well as regulatory and consumer issues.

To reach Spanish-speaking growers and workers in the citrus industry, Extension translated citrus information and Snapshots into Spanish.

In 2021, Extension offered five webinars on Asian citrus psyllid and HLB management, the use of particle films to manage HLB and citrus thrips. A webinar on the biology and management of Asian citrus psyllid was presented in Spanish. These webinars attracted international audiences of up to 300 people.

In polls taken after the Science for Citrus Health webinars, more than 50% of attendees said they would implement at least one new practice they learned at the session. For example, University of Florida research has shown that applying particle film to citrus trees instead of insecticides can reduce psyllid populations by more than 80%.

Link to full statement on website: