The California citrus industry has a message for road trippers traveling this Memorial Day weekend: Donât give grandma (or anyone else for that matter) your homegrown fruit.
The transport of backyard oranges, lemons, grapefruits and kumquats is illegal in most of Southern California, which is under a citrus fruit and plant quarantine. Thatâs because movement of fruit, citrus trees and even seeds can unknowingly spread a pest that can infect healthy citrus trees with a deadly plant disease that has no cure.
Because homegrown citrus is a place the Asian citrus psyllid, or ACP, likes to hang out, transporting this hitchhiking pest can allow it to infect other trees with a plant disease it can carry, called Huanglongbing, also known as HLB or citrus greening disease.
Their advice is pack the kids, the shorts, the swim googles and suntan lotion but not the homegrown fruit.
âAny citrus grown in your yard should not be moved,â explained Victoria Hornbaker, director of the Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Division at the California Department of Food and Agriculture. âYou can share them locally with neighbors.â
By locally, she means within your neighborhood. And if you do share fruit with neighbors, make sure you strip off all the leaves and wash the fruit thoroughly before moving it from your property, to remove any trace of the ACP or leaves infected with HLB.
Violations occur when someone transports citrus fruit or citrus trees across the quarantine, which stretches from just east of Los Angeles into the San Gabriel Valley, southeast Los Angeles County and major portions of Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
Agriculture and Customs and Border Protection agents will inspect cars and luggage at roadway inspections, Hornbaker said.
âPeople often donât know that they shouldnât do it,â she said. âThey are not doing it as an intent to be bad.â
The pest is one-eighth-of-an-inch long and feeds at a 45-degree angle, making the little insect appear thorn-like on leaves and stems.
What happens to the trees it infects? Their leaves can turn yellow; fruit is deformed. Also excessive amount of fruit dropping to the ground is a sign of a diseased tree, the CDFA said.
HLB has been detected in 2,347 trees statewide. Of those, 20 trees had the disease in San Bernardino County, in yards of residents of Montclair, Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino and Colton, Hornbaker said.
Once CDFA inspectors determine the tree is infected with HLB after confirmation by a laboratory in Sacramento, they ask the owner if they can remove it. âNinety-nine percent of the time they say yes,â Hornbaker said. Thatâs because the tree will die. âThere is no cure for HLB,â she said.
Residents can report pest or disease symptoms to the CDFA Pest Hotline by calling 1-800-491-1899, or go online at https://californiacitrusthreat.org/ to learn more.
For the past 12 years, the $3.4 billion commercial citrus industry in California in cooperation with the CDFA has been waging a war against the pest and the plant disease it causes. The effort has so far stopped HLB from showing up in commercial trees, Hornbaker said.
In Florida, the disease has spread throughout the commercial citrus industry and in Texas, HLB is hitting the commercial citrus industry hard, she said.
âWe are in a much better situation than in other states,â she said.