KNAU and Arizona News
8:47 am
Thu March 6, 2014

Disease-Spreading Insect Poses Threat to Arizona Citrus Crop

People raised in Arizona might be familiar with the five C’s that the state is known for, copper, cattle, cotton, citrus, and climate. As Arizona Public Radio’s Parker Olson reports, one of those five C’s is facing danger from a disease-spreading insect.

Though the Asian citrus psyllid has been found in Arizona, the disease the insects spread has not.
Though the Asian citrus psyllid has been found in Arizona, the disease the insects spread has not.
Credit westernfarmpress.com

The Asian citrus psyllid is an insect that can spread a devastating disease to trees called citrus greening disease. It has already destroyed thousands of acres of citrus trees in Florida and California. The insect has now been found in Arizona’s Mohave, La Paz and Yuma counties, but so far the disease it carries has not been detected in the state. But, officials and farmers remain wary. Julie Murphree, director of relations at the Arizona Farm Bureau, says farmers have suffered already.

“Fortunately, they didn’t find that it was carrying the disease, but they’ve been in quarantine and it’s really been devastating to them because when you go under quarantine you can’t move or sell your trees for a while, until they make sure there is no traces of the disease.”

Murphree says that the affects can reach beyond the farmers to the entire state citrus market.

“So yes, I do believe it can eventually hit us in the pocket book. It’s that whole supply and demand, if it wipes out an entire citrus industry, then we have less access to our fresh oranges that we grow so beautifully here in Arizona and obviously in California and Florida.”

The Arizona Department of Agriculture is urging people to be cautious of transporting citrus as they try to prevent the disease from spreading to the state.