Desert Southwest Under Quarantine

Desert Southwest Under Quarantine

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Reported By: Rob Hughes (rhughes@kswt.com)

Yuma, AZ/El Centro, CA- November 9- The Desert Southwest is officially under quarantine. Officials say a small insect is causing big problems.

The Asian Citrus Psyllids (ACP) is an insect smaller than an ant that could cost the agricultural industry millions. That's because it can carry the Huanglongbing disease (HLB), more commonly known as Citrus Greening Disease, which can destroy citrus trees. Officials are busy working on finding these insects, and they're asking for your help.

"Citrus is such a huge portion of our agricultural industry, I think something around 30 million dollars; if we lost that industry, we not only lose the value of it, but we also lose everything it's associated with," said Birsdall.

Yuma and the Imperial County are currently under quarantine after several findings of Asian Citrus Psyllids, a tiny insect that can carry Citrus Greening Disease, which spells disaster for the agricultural community. "It's a bacterial disease that affects all varieties of citrus; what it does is it'll make it unfit for consumption, and it will eventually kill the tree after a few years; there's no cure for the disease," said John Lowry, Manager of the Yuma County Citrus Pest Control District.

Lowry says the insect is difficult to detect, and sometimes experts find them too late, and the damage is done.

 Stephen Birdsall, Agricultural Commissioner for Imperial County, is concerned about the devastating blow the disease could have on the Valley, including lost jobs and productivity.

"Sometimes the Psyllid will show up to the harvest that carries this disease, which can feed on the foliage of the trees, and can affect the trees, and down the road it'll have an adverse effect on our citrus trees," said Lowry.

"Whether we're getting infested from Los Angeles, whether we're getting infested from Mexico, whether we've got some nursery site that's producing these insects, we just don't know, it's a very complex problem," said Birsdall.  

With other counties experiencing the same problem, experts say you can help by not transporting any citrus trees or citrus fruits out of the county until the issue is under control.

If you have any questions, contact the Arizona Department of Agriculture, at (602) 542-4373, or California Department of Food and Agriculture, at (916) 654-0466.