On Monday, USDA hosted a monthly conference call for citrus-producing states and stakeholders to discuss local and federal activities relative to HLB.
Florida reports that due to tree removal initiatives, more intensive farming practices, and nursery regulations, production has improved. They know they are not out of the woods but after years of decline, then a hurricane, they are excited about more volume being available for 19/20. Floridians anticipate color-break next week and some harvesting before the end of the month. They are well aware that their future remains in doubt, but notwithstanding some additional detections of citrus black spot there is optimism in Florida. They report 82,000 acres are under CBS quarantine presently.
Arizona will start their limited harvest next week and report no ACP or HLB issues at this time. It is fairly quiet in Texas as well with detections occurring in commercial groves. Unfortunately, however, resistance to removing infected trees remains a challenge to overcome.
In California, the big news is that through July, the total number of HLB detections in 2019 is double the number of infected trees detected in 2018. The total is now 1547 trees, all of which in backyards and all of which have been removed. As of August 12, 7 trees have been removed in Riverside, 395 in Los Angeles County, and the balance in Orange County. While this is certainly not good, so long as HLB is not found closer to or in commercial groves one has to be thankful.
There was positive news on the research front for California as well. USDA is allowing research leaders to access the CA Citrus Research Foundation’s Biosecurity Level 3 Research facility in Riverside. Preparations are being made to bring trees into the facility now and will be followed by ACP and HLB strains for research purposes. An early detection technology project sponsored by CCM will launch in the Ventura area with handheld devices for detecting HLB. In cooperation with the Ventura County Farm Bureau, sites will be defined to study efficacy and accuracy of these units.
During the call, it was also announced that a second project sponsored by CCM that utilizes drones was authorized for funding. This technology was being utilized in grain/hops locations and proponents believe that with minor adjustments, can be an effective tool for early detection. The technology will be tested in Florida in the near-term and California early next year.