Deadly Citrus Insect Found in Oakdale, Quarantine Could be Underway

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OAKDALE --

A pest that could devastate citrus trees has recently been found in Oakdale, according to Stanislaus County officials.

They’re juicy, bright and flavorful. Hollandia Nursery’s Meyer lemon crop is what many customers seek.

“Meyer lemon makes a wonderful cake and zest, David Van Klavern, co-owner of Hollandia Nursery said.

Unfortunately, Meyer lemon trees, and all citrus plants, are sought by a very harmful, almost microscopic, pest known as the Asian citrus psyllid. The pest is smaller than a dime and inspectors have to use a hand lens to identify the insect.

The pest can cause large headaches for citrus growers because they carry a disease that produces greening and bitter fruit known as huanglongbing.

“This is the disease that kills the tree ... over a period of time,” said Milton O’Haire, the agricultural commissioner sealer of weights and measures for Stanislaus County.

O’Haire said two psyllids were found in residential Turlock lemon trees back in October, prompting a quarantine.

“As late as last week, we received confirmation that there was one psyllid found in the Oakdale area,” he said.

Because of the newest discovery, the state could place another quarantine on the Northeast part of the county.

"It’s very important that we keep the disease out and try to control the spread of the insect,” O’Haire said.

The quarantine means fruit cannot leave the county unless the foliage and stems are removed. Growers like Van Klavern, who currently grows the Meyer lemon in a greenhouse, would have to grow all citrus in screen houses, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Or he said, he might stop selling citrus altogether.

"But the headaches you have to go through… it’s not… that’s what we’re trying to determine. Whether it’s worth it or not,” Van Klavern explained.

There is some good news, though. Even though psyllids have been found, the greening disease has not been found in citrus in Stanislaus County, at least not yet.

The pest has created major problems for other parts of the state. In Southern California, the greening disease has been found in Los Angeles and has devastated groves of citrus.