A family watches citrus trees disappear in a new public service announcement warning of a disease threat to California citrus. Video capture from thepsamarket.com

published on June 21, 2018 - 4:03 PM
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The California Department of Food and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have created a video intended to grow public awareness of a disease capable of destroying California’s citrus industry.

And that disease, huanglongbing, also is a threat to citrus trees in home gardens that dot much of the state.
“Spread by the Asian citrus psyllid, huanglongbing — or HLB — is a death sentence for citrus,” states the female announcer during the 30-second commercial available to view online at the psamarket.com website, https://bit.ly/2ywIn5x.

It starts out with a family barbecuing in their backyard alongside a small row of citrus trees, then the announcer states, “It may look peaceful, but there’s a storm brewing” and comments on the threat “of a deadly disease that can change our landscape forever.”

HLB is a disease harmless to humans but has devastated citrus crops around the world, including Brazil, China and Florida.

The HLB bacteria can be spread only by the psyllids when they feed on the leaves and stems of diseased trees and then infect the healthy trees on which they feed next.

There is no cure, and infected trees within a few years become sickly – usually producing an increasing number of yellow leaves and bitter, mottled fruit – and die.

Asian citrus psyllids, some of them infected, and infected trees have been found in Southern California, while smaller numbers of the insects have been found in the Valley – the state’s main commercial citrus-growing area. So far, no infected trees or psyllids have been found in the central part of the state.

Much of the effort to stop the spread of the insects and the disease has been on farmers, who have to spray their trees to kill the psyllids, clean their harvested fruit and remove stems before transporting it outside quarantined parts of the state and check their trees for signs of the psyllids and HLB infection.

“Now is the time to inspect your trees and report suspicious symptoms,” the commercial announcer states, as the family members watch their citrus trees and fruit wither away in a matter of seconds.

“If HLB is not stopped, all citrus in California is at risk of disappearing,” it continues before a website, CaliforniaCitrusThreat.org, and a phone number for the CDFA, 800-491-1899, appear on the screen.

“California homeowners – 60 percent of whom own citrus trees – play an important role in protecting citrus in our state and are being asked to protect their backyard trees by searching for signs of the pest and disease,” states a written message under the video.

“Please help us encourage California residents to join this fight by airing this PSA spot and alerting them to report any suspicious pests or signs of HLB to the California Department of Food and Agriculture hotline.”

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