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Moving against citrus bug

A quarantine is placed on parts of San Diego County to halt spread.

September 12, 2008|From Bloomberg News

U.S. and California officials have placed a quarantine on part of San Diego County to protect the state's main citrus-growing region from a bug known to carry a damaging disease.

The move follows the discovery of more than 200 Asian citrus psyllid insects in part of San Diego and in Dulzura, the California Department of Food and Agriculture said Thursday. The agency said the bugs could cause citrus greening.

In early July, orange juice prices rose after psyllids were found in Mexico near the California border. Although tests still are being done, the state said there was "no indication" that the bugs caught in San Diego or Dulzura, 23 miles away, carry the disease, also known as huanglongbing, which can wither fruit. In the U.S., only Florida produces more oranges than California.

"This pest can carry a very serious disease that has the potential to cripple citrus plants beyond repair, so we are moving swiftly," California Food and Agriculture Secretary A.G. Kawamura said. A psyllid population in nearby Tijuana is free of the disease, the statement said.

The quarantine covers 1,181 square miles in southern San Diego County. Enforced by the state and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the quarantine will prevent the movement of citrus trees and related plants from the area, and requires harvested fruit to be commercially cleaned before shipment, the statement said.

California estimates the value of its citrus output at $1.1 billion. The state's top-producing area lies north of the quarantine zone.

Once a tree is infected with citrus greening, it can't be cured and will die, the statement said.

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