Pasadena Now has learned that 77 trees in nearby communities are infected with a bacteria that is decimating citrus fruit production across the country. At least 76 trees in nearby San Gabriel are infected with Huanglongbing (HLB). Another tree carrying the bacteria was found in Alhambra as of Jan. 17.
Both communities are part of the five-square mile radius citrus fruit quarantine that includes Pasadena. The quarantine prohibits the removal of homegrown, non-commercial citrus fruit from the area. Fruit from markets and certified farmer’s markets is exempt.
HLB has not been discovered in Pasadena.
HLB starves trees after it enters their circulatory system. It is not known if the infected trees have been removed. It is not harmful to humans or animals.
In 2017, infected trees were also found in the area.
The California Department Food and Agriculture declared the quarantine which bars the movement of home-grown non commercial fruit from the area.
Fruit from stores is not subject to the quarantine.
According to one person working at the CDFA, the CDFA does not patrol quarantine areas.
The bacteria can be transferred from one tree to another by the Asian Citrus Psyllid, a sap sucking pest that can carry the bacteria from one tree to another as it feeds. The bacteria can also be transferred by grafting cuttings from one tree to another.
HLB was first detected in 2005. Since that time, orange production has fallen by more than 75 percent, and grapefruit production is down 85 percent. Backyard citrus has virtually disappeared in some areas, according to reports.
According to Victoria Hornbaker, director of the citrus pest and disease prevention division at the California Department Food and Agriculture (CDFA), trees infected by the bacteria experience stunted growth, bear off season flowers, and produce irregularly shaped fruit with a thick, pale peel that remains green at the bottom and tastes very bitter.
HLB has also been found in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
Officials will hang traps and take samples of local trees for testing.
The disease has infected about 75 percent of citrus trees in Florida and placed the entire state in a quarentine zone, resulting in more than $4 billion in lost citrus. More than 26 million citrus trees have been lost in Brazil.
In Florida crop owners have not been forced to remove trees, because they are primarily producing fruit from the trees. In California, trees would have to be removed according to Hornbaker, director of the citrus pest and disease prevention division.
“We have commercial citrus production, Riverside and San Bernardino. If HLB were to get into commercial grove, then that grove owner would be removing trees. It would be potentially impacting their production. Our fruit that we produce in California is the fruit that you’re going to find on your table, so that will be an impact for us.”