APHIS seeks comments on proposed biological control for citrus psyllid

Excerpted from Logan Hawkes’s article in Southwest Farm Press

The U.S. citrus industry has been facing a serious threat from a disease that has spread from the East coast to the West Coast over the course of the last two decades, carried by a small insect that feeds on the leaves and stems of citrus trees.

Huanglongbing (HLB), better known as Yellow Dragon Disease or citrus greening disease, is spread by the Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP). The insect, Diaphorina citri, is a hemipteran bug in the family Psyllidae, an important pest of citrus worldwide. Since first detected in Florida as early as 1995, the ACP has been confirmed in several states including Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Hawaii, Texas, Arizona, and California. ACP has also been confirmed in American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Biological control may help. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is proposing to issue permits for the field release of a parasitic wasp, Diaphorencyrtus aligarhensis, to reduce the severity of infestations of ACP in the United States and retard the spread of HLB. While the proposed release is expected to directly involve ACP areas in California initially, it is not limited to one geographic area in the plan and could be expanded.

APHIS released a statement last week advising the public that a draft environmental assessment has been prepared relative to the proposed release of Diaphorencyrtus aligarhensis for the biological control of the Asian citrus psyllid in the contiguous United States. They are making this environmental assessment available to the public for review and comment.

A preliminary review and comment period relating to the proposed biological control method was made available by APHIS earlier this year (September, 2014) and provided the public with the opportunity to comment on a proposed plan. A total of 16 comments were properly submitted and were evaluated by USDA-APHIS who subsequently investigated and initiated additional investigations relative to those comments.

The final draft environmental assessment has been prepared by APHIS and is available for review and additional comment. To review the final environmental assessment and for information on how to comment, follow this link.

For the entire article, go to Southwest Farm Press.

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