As The Santa Barbara Independent recently reported, state agriculture officials are currently in Santa Barbara County to offer some homeowners with citrus trees free treatments to protect against the Asian citrus psyllid. As a citrus farmer, I know how important these treatments are to the long term health of citrus trees in our community, and I encourage everyone asked to allow agriculture officials to do what it takes to save our citrus.
Treating for the Asian citrus psyllid is the best way to protect local citrus trees from huanglongbing, a deadly plant disease killing citrus trees in Los Angeles County. Other areas of the world and country, including Florida, didn’t take an aggressive approach in managing the Asian citrus psyllid. Instead, they waited for the disease to be found in the area, and by then it was too late. Florida’s citrus crop this year is just a third of what it was 20 years ago. Family farms have gone out of business. Organic and conventional citrus farmers alike are watching their trees die by the thousands.
Anyone who questions whether to have pesticides applied on their property should know that the California Department of Food and Agriculture takes great care to apply treatments safely by hand and only to citrus trees. Crews scout for pollinators and postpone treatments if bees are present. If you wish to manage the psyllid on your property yourself, I urge you to consult respectable, scientific resources like the University of California, which offers organic options on its website, UCANR.edu/sites/ACP.
Not doing anything to protect your tree will have dire results for the entire community. Every Asian citrus psyllid allowed to thrive in our area poses a serious risk to citrus trees. We must do what we can to protect the citrus trees in Santa Barbara that we all love.