We knew it was only a matter of time. After watching Brazil's and Florida's citrus get decimated by Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) — to the tune of billions of dollars — we knew that despite rigorous agriculture checkpoints, testing and restrictions, California would probably be next. The bug, the carrier for the disease Huanglongbing (HLB), was spotted in Southern California a few years ago. And now the distinction of Patient Zero status rests in the backyard landscape of a single family home in Hacienda Heights, resulting in a 100 square mile quarantine of an area in eastern Los Angeles County. There is no treatment for HLB. Infected trees are dead trees, but not before the ACP has a chance to spread the disease. The potential damage to one of the state's largest and most lucrative agricultural crops could be devastating.
In response, California Department of Food and Agriculture biologists, entomologists and state and local officials are holding an open house-style info session tonight from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Industry Hills Expo Center's Avalon Room. Visitors are welcome to stop by at any time during that window to ask questions and get information. What the quarantine means, and the app that will help you monitor the disease, after the jump.
The quarantined area reaches as far north as El Monte and West Covina and stretches south into Orange County near La Habra. A full PDF map is available online here. What this means for locals is that you cannot share clippings from quarantine-zone yards, grafting between trees is strictly forbidden, and sending any fruit outside of the quarantine boundary — even just one orange packed into a bag lunch — is completely prohibited.
The two-year minimum on the quarantine is due to the asymptomatic nature of HLB — infected trees can look completely fine for up to two years before showing any signs of infection. State officials are spreading the word as fast as they can, but could use some help from the public.
You can help track the disease using the Save Our Citrus app (available on iTunes). Save Our Citrus allows the public to send photos of misshapen or discolored fruit to citrus experts, who will respond with a diagnosis. Data from the app is collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. You can also fill out this online form with handy visual identifiers to help you classify the kind of citrus disease you might be seeing.