When the Spaniards founded Mission San Gabriel, they brought oranges with them. It turned out that Southern Californian conditions help citrus reach peak flavor.
Though largely languishing under concrete, asphalt and lawns now, beneath our feet is one of the most perfect citrus growing areas in the world. A walk around town shows a number of homes in our city that boast beautiful citrus trees. Taste an orange grown here, and you'll likely taste an orange that puts even the choicest supermarket produce to shame.
Citrus trees are relatively easy care here but The California Dept. of Forest and Agriculture (CDFA) just announced that huanglongbing (HLB or Citrus Greening Disease) has been spotted and confirmed in Hacienda Heights.
It is carried by an exotic pest called the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP). While ACP had been spotted in LA County in the previous couple years, we had managed to escape HLB up to this point.
So what's the big deal about Citrus Greening Disease?
HLB destroys the appearance of the fruit as well as the taste. Eventually, it kills the tree. This is bad news for states like Florida, Texas and California that have large citrus growing industries.
California's citrus growing industry brings in nearly $2 billion annually. HLB has been in Florida since 2005 and the University of Florida estimates it has resulted in more than 6,600 lost jobs, $1.3 billion in lost revenue to growers and $3.6 billion in lost economic activity in the state. A threat like this would always be serious but on top of our current economic situation it would be disastrous.
Have you ever crossed the state border or gone through customs without declaring plants, fruits or vegetables, because you figured such things were harmless? Well, the harm that smuggling plant materials into our state can do is very real.
Citizens, particularly home growers, can make a crucial difference in quarantining this disease to as small an area of our state as possible in the hopes we can eradicate it. CDFA has announced a quarantine that will restrict the movement of citrus trees, citrus plant parts, green waste and all citrus fruit except what is commercially cleaned and packed.
Do not remove or share citrus fruit, trees, clippings/grafts or related plant material. You may still eat fruit from your own trees on site. This is tremendously inconvenient and a blow to home gardeners and produce sharing groups. However, it would be far more inconvenient in the long run were this disease to take hold in our state. Not only would there be many lost jobs and much lost revenue, you might have a hard time ever growing citrus without HLB ruining it.
And so our land will go from being one of the most perfect citrus-growing areas in the world to a citrus wasteland. Don't let it happen! Observe the quarantine. Check your own plants and report any sign of Asian citrus psyllid or HLB to the CA Dept of Forestry and Agriculture.
For more information and to see what ACP and HLB look like, click HERE.
And see the attached video for tips.