Dog sniffs out Asian citrus psyllid near Fresno airport

Aug 7, 2009
A specially trained dog found curry leaves inside a package at a Fresno FedEx facility that were carrying Asian citrus psyllid, according to the Associated Press. Even more chilling, authorities announced yesterday that the pest was smuggling a serious citrus disease, said an article in the Fresno Bee today.

"It's very, very scary," the Bee story quoted Joel Nelsen of California Citrus Mutual. "This is not hyperbole. That could destroy our citrus industry in California."

UC scientists are working closely with industry groups to monitor the movement of Asian citrus psyllid, which was found near Tijuana, Mexico, in July 2008 and in San Diego in September 2008.

The Asian citrus psyllid found on the curry leaves in Fresno were the first ever found in California that have tested positive for the disease, called huanglongbing, or citrus greening.

The disease is one of the most devastating in the citrus world and has no cure. It turns the fruit green, misshapen or bitter and makes it unsuitable for sale, the Bee story said.

(The AP story contained some errors. This is not the first find north of quarantine area, the insect was dead, and the disease is a bacterium not a virus.)

Yesterday, director of the UC Lindcove Research and Extension Center Beth Grafton-Cardwell said experts hope the Fresno find will raise awareness about the potential danger of illegally importing agricultural products into the United States.

To help spread the word, I will be videotaping an interview with Grafton-Cardwell at Lindcove this afternoon to send to UCOP for development into audio and video stories for Science Today, which is produced by Larissa Branin for Westwood One/CBS Radio Network.

By Jeannette E. Warnert
Author - Communications Specialist

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