The 2017 Asian citrus psyllid season has started off high.
The Florida citrus industry has been watching the Asian citrus psyllid levels in Florida rise for the past year or so. The Asian citrus psyllid is the tiny insect responsible for transmitting the devastating citrus greening bacteria from citrus tree to citrus tree. Since 2005, the citrus greening disease has reduced orange production by 70 percent. A Growing Produce article examines the reasons behind the high numbers. Read it summarized below.
Explanations Behind High Asian Citrus Psyllid Populations
The article labels the 2017 high Asian citrus psyllid populations as the result of a “perfect storm.” For starters, population levels were high last year. Brandon Page, UF/IFAS’s Citrus Health Management Areas (CHMAs) Program Assistant, was quoted as saying, “The psyllid counts throughout the summer we very high pretty much everywhere you looked. If you follow population trends, the psyllids have followed historical data where they spike in the summer then start working their way down in the winter. But, for the better part of year, the pest was at record levels.”
Weather was another contributing factor. UF/IFAS Associate Professor of entomology and nematology, Dr. Lukasz Stelinski, was quoted as saying, “In 2015, we saw pretty high populations of psyllids, and that was followed by a really wet winter in 2016. So, we had a high population going into the spring and a lot of growth on the trees because of the extremely wet winter.”
It’s also thought that the wet weather affected the ability of pesticides aimed at the Asian Citrus Psyllid from having staying power. “If you went out with an application in the morning, then have a 2-inch rain in the afternoon, that would definitely be detrimental to efficacy,” Stelinski said.
Poorly managed or abandoned groves also contribute. “Psyllids can routinely move for at least a mile,” Stelinski said. “When they do these jumps, they can use alternative hosts for brief amounts of time to remain hydrated and perhaps consume some sugar resources so they can travel further. If you have a neighbor a couple of miles away that is not controlling the psyllid or is doing the bare minimum, you are in trouble, especially in the spring when the pest is moving about more.”
Furthermore, certain pesticides aimed at the Asian citrus psyllid cannot be used when citrus trees are in bloom, a time psyllid population are highest, because the pesticides will harm the bees that are collecting pollen in the flowers.
The status of efforts to fight the Asian citrus psyllid will be covered in a later blog.
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Image courtesy of USDA ARS Image Gallery.