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Redlands combats citrus tree-killing bug

February 1, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
The Inland Empire is at war with the Asian citrus psyllid, a bug with the potential to cripple the state's nearly $2 billion citrus industry.

The insect, which is no larger than the head of a pin, can spread a citrus disease that could wipe out an entire grove.

Andrew Cunningham of Glen Cairn Farms in Redlands is hoping his citrus groves will not fall victim to it.

"If it spreads here to the Southern California area, orange crops as we know it could be devastated in seven years," Cunningham said.

The disease known as citrus greening threatens California's robust citrus industry because there is no cure for it.

The disease has not reached California, but the bug has.

Once a tree has been infected with the bacteria from the insect, the only option is to destroy the tree.

"It causes the trees to drop the leaves. The leaves will turn a muddled yellow, the fruit will become misshaped and bitter, and you can't sell that fruit at that point," said Christina Hoddle, an entomologist.

The Asian citrus psyllid's discovery in the Inland Empire has prompted an all-out attack with insecticides.

A quarantine mandates that all fruit shipped out of the area must be free of stems and leaves.

Last month, a Redlands-owned grove tested positive for the insect.

On Tuesday, Redlands City Council members approved a $38,000 measure to squash the citrus pest in its tracks.

As a result of the council's action, a farm management company will treat all of the approximately 200 acres of citrus that the city owns and operates, said Danielle Garcia, a city senior project manager.

Commercial groves are not the only ones under threat. Households are also being told to be on the lookout for the insect in backyard trees.