Our Biggest Battle: Maintaining Urgency Amid Success
For more than a decade, the California citrus industry has invested countless hours, leveraged millions of dollars and created dozens of innovative partnerships in an effort to keep Huanglongbing (HLB) out of our commercial groves – and it has worked.
I recognize that this feeling of accomplishment is encouraging. However, with success, the urgency and magnitude of this threat can feel diminished, and nothing could be further from the truth. The devastating impact that HLB can have on our orchards, communities and livelihoods is still very real, even if – for now – we’re successful at remaining one step ahead.
This past year has presented many unforeseen challenges to our industry – and the entire world.
Through all the obstacles presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Committee has continued working to support the needs of the industry by identifying opportunities for increased efficiencies, exploring emerging mitigation methods and using innovative tactics to connect with audiences in an increasingly digital world.
As we look back on the last year, this report will focus on the many activities the program and its partners have conducted to protect commercial citrus groves. However, I can’t stress too strongly the need for all growers’ cooperation in making these efforts successful. We need you to get involved! We cannot do it alone. Connect with your local grower liaison, pest control district or task force. Do everything you reasonably can to prevent Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) and HLB from becoming established or getting too comfortable in your orchard. The cost to manage the ACP is far less than any potential costs or loss to the industry that HLB could pose.
While we cannot predict what the future will hold, we can plan for scenarios that may become reality and continue to put in the tough, but necessary, work to best protect California’s commercial citrus industry. Together we can keep California’s citrus healthy.
Jim Gorden, Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Committee Chair
USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) acreage survey (2019-2020)
accounted for 52% of the nation’s
citrus production and 63% of the
total citrus value in the U.S.
California Agricultural Statistics Review, 2019-2020, California Department of Food and Agriculture
Strengthening the Fight to Save California’s Citrus WITH a Dedicated Workforce
As we began the 2019-2020 fiscal year, we anticipated a year of growth. The newly created Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Division (CPDPD) at the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) continued to scale up as a dedicated statewide workforce was established to support the citrus industry’s fight against invasive pests and diseases. Little did we know how much this year would challenge all of us to nimbly adjust and grow to meet the unique circumstances we’ve faced as an industry and a society.
Collaboration has always been a guiding principle in the fight again the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP), Huanglongbing (HLB) and other citrus pests and diseases. Citrus industry members, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), CPDPD, county agricultural officials, scientists and researchers have worked together to innovate, adapt and implement protocols to stay a step ahead of these threats. This commitment to partnership was reinforced when the CPDPD – funded by California citrus growers and USDA and administered by CDFA – was established by the state. The CPDPD has worked diligently to fill the 168 dedicated positions allocated to serve the California citrus industry, this includes management, field staff and analytical scientists located across 11 field offices strategically placed throughout California and all committed to a rapid and unrelenting response to ACP and HLB.
Like many organizations in 2020, CPDPD staff and activities were forced to continuously adjust to ensure our work remained safe, yet effective. The CPDPD adapted its surveying and treatment techniques to protect public and staff health, as well as turned to virtual formats to communicate with stakeholders. In fact, moving to online platforms for industry and public meetings has not only reduced costs, but also increased participation. With support from the committee and the scientific community, the division also instituted several changes to increase the efficiencies, including streamlining bulk citrus movement regulations, and reducing HLB and areawide ACP treatment areas to 250-meter area to limit cost and increase completion times.
While we have made great strides in overcoming the year’s challenges, we are more committed than ever in our partnership to you – the citrus industry – and in our continual pursuit of the most innovative and efficient ways to fight ACP and HLB.
Victoria Hornbaker, Director,
Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Division
California Department of Food and Agriculture
By The Numbers
During FY 19-20, the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program used its funds to support its priorities and fight HLB on multiple fronts.
On The Ground
Residential citrus trees confirmed HLB+ and removed
Residential properties surveyed for the Asian citrus psyllid
Asian citrus psyllid sticky traps deployed throughout the state
In the Lab
citrus plant samples tested for HLB in authorized labs
Asian citrus psyllid samples tested for CLas
Expenditures by category*
Quickly Detect and Eradicate Diseased Trees
Control Movement of Psyllid Around the State; Enforce Regulations
Suppress Asian Citrus Psyllid Populations
Improve Data Technology, Analysis and Sharing
Outreach and Collaboration
*Expenditures reported as of March 2021
Facts and figures
Tamarixia radiata released in 13 regions throughout California and surrounding areas
field offices across the state
division staff members dedicated to supporting the citrus industry
public meetings were held in person or virtually by CPDPD
Keeping the Committee Aligned Toward Positive Change
The subcommittees of the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Committee work to ensure committee activities are in alignment with its strategic priorities and help the program navigate through new challenges and issues, including the COVID-19 pandemic. The following highlights the activities that positively impacted the program and California’s citrus industry this past fiscal year.
Bob Felts Jr., subcommittee chair and owner of Felts Farm in Visalia
As it strives to increase the efficiency, clarity and transparency of the program’s revenues and expenditures, the finance subcommittee consistently communicates with Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Division staff to ensure the committee has a firm understanding of program successes and areas for improvement. This year, the subcommittee used a new manual tracking system instituted within the division to more accurately determine where program resources stand in a timely manner and continues to explore methods for streamlining the invoicing process. In developing the FY 2020-2021 budget, the finance subcommittee worked closely with the operations subcommittee to anticipate and plan for future expenditures. More details on budgets and expenditures overseen by the finance subcommittee can be found in this report.
Keith Watkins, subcommittee chair and vice president of Bee Sweet Citrus
With a laser focus on efficiency without compromising efficacy, the operations subcommittee works closely with the science and technology subcommittee, the University of California and the Citrus Research Board’s, Data Analysis Tactical Operations Center (DATOC) to ensure any operational changes are rooted in sound science and supported by data. Based on scientific insights, the subcommittee recommended reducing Huanglongbing (HLB) treatment areas to 250 meters as this area would encompass 95 percent of HLB detections, increase completion times and save resources. Additionally, the group recommended maintaining bi-monthly trap servicing in the Central Valley to prevent undetected Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) population growth and identified opportunities to streamline the bulk citrus movement regulations to avoid potential work arounds. Backed by science, the subcommittee continues to explore how to manage ACP and HLB in the most efficient way.
Mark McBroom, subcommittee chair and owner of Bloom to Box Crop Care in Imperial County
To ensure the program’s messaging continues to drive desired behaviors among homeowner audiences, the outreach subcommittee began the year by conducting market research with homeowners to evaluate motivators and willingness to act and refine key messages to support these findings. The abrupt shifts of the COVID-19 pandemic caused many traditional activities to move to the digital sphere when connecting with homeowners, industry members and elected officials. Digital connections quickly became a primary conduit to maintaining urgency among stakeholders and the subcommittee pivoted to adapt to virtual city council presentations, online grower meetings, video field crew trainings, Zoom media interviews and social media marketing to continue to meet the program’s outreach needs. Overall, the program’s outreach efforts reached millions of Californians through several touch points, including social media advertisements, community events, direct mailers and over 250+ earned media stories in several print, broadcast and radio outlets. The subcommittee continues to explore new ways to collaborate with partners and leverage new communication channels to adapt to stakeholders’ changing routines and news consumption habits.
Science and technology
Etienne Rabe, subcommittee chair and vice president of horticulture for Wonderful Citrus
The science and technology subcommittee uses the best available science to make program recommendations that help prevent the spread of HLB into commercial groves, limit psyllid movement and increase program efficiency. In close association with DATOC and the operations subcommittee, the science and technology subcommittee actively explore ways to ensure optimal use of program resources. For example, HLB mitigation boundaries and area-wide buffer treatment areas were reduced from 400-meters to 250-meters to increase timeliness of treatments and reduce costs. Additionally, in its continuous evaluation of program effectiveness against HLB, the group is exploring alternate scientifically sound mitigation methods that will produce cost savings while protecting the health of commercial citrus to ensure we have a prosperous and healthy citrus crop for years to come.