California Struggles Against Invasive Pests and Diseases

Apr 20, 2018

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In March of this year, the USDA awarded California an additional $14.8 million, a welcome shot in the arm to California’s farmers. It is part of the ongoing effort to fight control or eradicate invasive pests and diseases that threaten the state’s agriculture.

It’s an especially welcome bit of news to citrus growers, who are battling against huánglóngbìng. This bacterial infection, better known as citrus greening disease, continues to ravage citrus groves in Florida. There remains no long-term solutions in sight, only short-term measures in the face of growing emergency. Attempts to control the Asian Citrus Psyllid have slowed the spread of the disease they carry. However, the disease itself remains incurable, and fatal to any tree that is infected. California has put together an action plan to fight citrus greening, but there is no telling how effective it will be.

It currently is one of the greatest examples of the dangers posed by invasive pests. Yet it is far from the only one, and such dangers are not limited to the farm fields.

Nine New Invasive Pests and Species in California Every Year

invasive pests threaten california

A Napa Valley vineyard at harvest time.

Some years go above or below the average, and fortunately most fail to establish significant threats. But when they do, our greenery can take a serious hit. In turn, so do our homes and neighborhoods.

For example, the polyphagous shot hole borer. As invasive pests go, it has shown a swift infestation of trees throughout Southern California. Much like the Asian Citrus Psyllid, the danger is not from the beetles themselves, but rather it is what they carry. Fusarium euwallacea is a fungus responsible for a multi-million tree die-back throughout the southern end of the state.

It’s a grim statistic, and one that comes with additional consequences. It’s impossible to ignore the absolutely brutal wild fire season that swept through California in 2017. The mass tree die-back, coupled with unseasonable temperatures, resulted in some of the largest conflagrations in state history.

The Waiting Game

It can take years before a solution for an invasive pest is found. If, for instance, you discovered Asian Citrus Psyllids on your backyard citrus tree, your first reaction might be to spray chemicals. But as integrated pest management experts have learned, immediate action is not always the best solution.

Reckless pruning and pesticide spraying might certainly deal with one pest. It can also leave your trees stressed, weakened against another potential danger. It can also fail to address the problem at hand.

To get an idea of how long it can take for invasive pests to be fully dealt with, one only needs to look at the European grapevine moth. Discovered in California’s Napa Valley in 2009, the pest threatened vineyards throughout the state. After years of research, aggressive pest control tactics and quarantines, California declared itself clean of the moth in 2016.

If the trees in your backyard appear to be failing despite consistent care, invasive pests and disease may be involved. It’s essential to call in qualified experts in these circumstances. The very life of your backyard landscape could depend on getting the right kind of information, and taking the correct actions.

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