A Los Angeles Times front-page feature on UC Riverside’s Givaudan Citrus Variety Collection and its curator, Tracy Kahn, is lauding efforts by the university to save citrus. Times staff writer Gustavo Arellano, who spent time with Kahn at the collection, references the groves as the “Noah’s Ark for citrus: two of every kind.”
Kahn, who has been the Citrus Variety Collection’s curator for 25 years, is scared about the threat of citrus greening to citrus. But for now, the defenses are holding and scientists are finding better weapons to combat the disease.
Citrus greening, or Huanglongbing, is a bacterial infection transmitted by the moth-like Asian citrus psyllid. The insect arrived in San Diego and Imperial counties in 2008 after decimating citrus crops in China, Brazil, and Florida.
Right now, growers and residents with infected trees have no choice but to remove them. Even if a bacteria-positive tree does not show symptoms of Huanglongbing, it can transmit the bacteria to an uninfected Asian citrus psyllid during feeding, and the psyllid can, in turn, transmit the bacteria to another tree.
“I’m not retiring until we’ve got something good to deal with this,” said Kahn to Arellano about citrus greening.
Thanks to a $3.5 million gift from Giavaudan, a 3-acre-large protective screened structure for new trees and back-up collections will create a safe space for a limited selection of specimens.
“We’re getting to a point where it’s kinda scary,” Kahn told Arellano.