Your Local Grower Liaison: On the Frontline in the Fight Against HLB

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The battle to save California citrus from the Asian citrus psyllid and Huanglongbing (HLB) is a collaborative effort that involves local, county, state and federal officials, researchers, scientists and commercial citrus growers. To help facilitate pest management and disease eradication, the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program (CPDPP) has identified a program manager and key individuals in each region to be a growers’ main point of contact for information and updates on activities occurring in their region.

Grower Liaisons are CPDPP’s boots-on-the-ground leaders in the fight against ACP and HLB and growers across the state are encouraged to interact regularly with their region’s representative. Learn more about your grower liaison below and request to be added to their email updates for timely updates impacting your area!

Robert Atkins

Statewide Coordinator – Robert Atkins
For 33 years, Robert “Bob” Atkins worked for the County of Los Angeles, Agricultural Commissioner/Weights & Measures Department, reaching the rank of Chief Deputy prior to accepting the position of Agricultural Commissioner/Sealer of Weights & Measures for San Diego County from 2006 through 2011. Bob is also a small farmer of cherimoyas, citrus and figs in the Fallbrook-Rainbow area of San Diego County.

Sylvie Robillard

Fresno County – Sylvie Robillard
Sylvie has worked as an independent pest control advisor (PCA) in the citrus industry since 1986, beginning with Jim Stewart and Jim Gorden at Pest Management Associates. During her career, she has been involved in all phases of pest control. She is familiar with all currently established pests and their sampling protocol and management – both chemical and cultural. Currently, Sylvie owns a small company, Tecolote IPM Consulting. For the past several years, she has organized the Citrus Roundtables for AAIE, forums where growers, PCAs and researchers get together to discuss issues in citrus pest control.

Teri Blaser

Tulare County (Northern) – Teri Blaser
As the Northern Tulare County Grower Liaison, Teri represents growers who are located north of the Tulare-Lindsay Highway. She currently owns Sespe Creek Insectary, Inc. with her husband, Ralph. The Insectary rears Aphytis melinus, a parasitic wasp that is used to control California red scale in citrus. She has served or currently serves on the board of the Association of Natural Biocontrol Producers, the Association of Applied IPM Ecologists and the Applied Insect Ecologists Foundation. Teri graduated from California State University, Fresno with a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Business in 1993.

Jessica Leslie

Tulare County (Southern) – Jessica Leslie
As the Southern Tulare County Grower Liaison, Jessica represents growers who are located south of the Tulare-Lindsay Highway. She is the owner of JML Consulting where for the last 10 years she has worked in the agriculture pest management field – specifically working with PCAs and growers on area-wide treatment programs. Jessica works closely with the surrounding growers, PCAs and researchers to coordinate treatments twice a year. As an aspiring third generation PCA, the citrus industry has always held a special place in Jessica’s heart and ultimately guided her decision to pursue this career path.

Judy Zaninovich

Kern County – Judy Zaninovich
Judy has enjoyed working with citrus growers on pest management issues since becoming a licensed PCA in 1984. For the past 10 years, she has coordinated treatments in citrus and grapes for the glassy-winged sharpshooter (GWSS) area-wide management program in Tulare County and North Kern County. Judy has worked in close partnership with growers, PCAs, researchers and associated government agencies with the common goal of suppressing and eradicating these pests and their ability to vector devastating diseases.

Cressida Silvers

Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura Counties – Cressida Silvers
Cressida has more than 15 years of experience in agricultural pest management, research, demonstration and outreach in a variety of crops. She spent five years as project coordinator of the United States Department of Agriculture Areawide Pest Management Project for the invasive Melaleuca tree in South Florida, working with public agencies and private landowners to increase awareness of the weed tree and to promote an integrated management approach based on biological control. She’s also worked on the Integrated Pest Management program for stone fruit pests at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center and did her graduate studies at UC Riverside on biological control of avocado thrips.

Sandra Zwaal

San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura Counties – Sandra Zwaal
Sandra is a licensed pest control advisor and a UCCE Master Gardener educating the public on pest and weed control, plant maintenance, Integrated Pest Management practices and water conservation. She also plans and executes school gardens on a project basis. After spending 15 years as a certified Project Manager Professional (PMP) in technology, public sector and finance, Sandra went back to school to obtain a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture/Plant Science from Cal Poly Pomona.

Sylvie Robillard

Riverside County – Currently Vacant
For questions regarding updates in Riverside County, please contact Robert Atkins, Statewide Coordinator, at bobatkinsagwm@gmail.com.

Curtis Pate

Imperial County – Curtis Pate
Curtis owns the agronomy consulting company, Agtegrity, Inc., where he works with Imperial Valley area farmers on soil fertility and pest management. Prior to starting his own business, Curtis spent more than 21 years at Helena Chemical in sales and management. He is an active member of CAPCA and Agronomy Society of America and has concentrated on trees and vines throughout his career. Born and raised in Brawley, Calif., he is well-connected with growers in the desert.