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April 3, 2012 > Citrus disease detected in California

Citrus disease detected in California

By Tracie Cone, Associated Press

FRESNO, Calif. (AP), Mar 30 - A citrus disease that has killed millions of citrus trees across Florida and Brazil has been detected in California, despite the industry's best efforts to keep it at bay.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture announced Friday that citrus greening, also known as huanglongbing, has been discovered in lemon/pummelo tree in a residential neighborhood of Los Angeles County.

The bacterial disease is carried by the Asian citrus psyllid and attacks the vascular system of trees. It is not a threat to humans.

``It's disappointing,'' said Joel Nelson of California Citrus Mutual. ``Now we'll see if this great program that we believe we have going is going to work.''

Detection of the disease has been state citrus growers' fear since the bug first crossed into San Diego County from Mexico in 2008, potentially threatening California's $1.3 billion fresh citrus market. Despite 25 years of worldwide research, there still are no biological or genetic controls for the disease that keeps fruit from ripening.

Until this detection, there had been no confirmed cases of an infected psyllid in California, and grower groups and state agricultural officials have been aggressively trapping and testing bugs for the disease since the first sighting.

State officials are making arrangements to remove and dispose of the tree, which so far is the only one found to be infected. They also will treat all citrus trees for psyllids within a half mile of the infected tree.

Only one infected pysllid has been trapped, but others can become vectors of the disease by feeding on an infected tree.

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