Tamarixia to the Rescue?

As of this week, Ventura County may have a new favorite insect: Tamarixia Radiata. Following research done at the University of California, Riverside by Dr. Mark Hoddle and his team, the USDA is now evaluating a plan to release Tamarixia as a bio-control on the Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP), the vector for Huanglongbing (HLB) bacteria. Dr. Hoddle reports that the USDA has agreed to a “fast-track” review process, which could authorize release of Tamarixia by the end of the 2011.

The Asian Citrus Psyllid and the disease caused by HLB has been responsible for destroying tens of thousands of acres of citrus in Florida and other parts of the world. ACP is now well established in Los Angeles County, although the HLB disease has not yet been reported in California. Tamarixia offers the potential to suppress the ACP population in urban areas where pesticide applications are not a viable means for combating the pest.

What does this mean for Ventura County? For starters, we will not likely see many Tamarixia in our orchards and backyards any time soon. They will be most effectively employed reducing the ACP population in areas heavily infested. But the smaller the urban Los Angeles population of ACP is, the lower the probability of a full scale infestation in rural Ventura County. Should the HLB bacteria find its way to California, a minimal ACP population will be less capable of spreading the disease. This has huge economic implications for the citrus industry, as well as the backyard orange trees that are an iconic piece of Southern California. It could also eliminate the need for tremendous quantities of pesticides, good news to both farmers and their neighbors.

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