A team that includes Cal Poly Pomona scientists was honored for their work on an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach to help control the spread of the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP), which has decimated citrus crops in the southeast.
The Citrus Research Board Joint Agency Biological Control Task Force, which includes Cal Poly Pomona, UC Riverside, the California Department of Food & Agriculture, the Citrus Research Board, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was one of four programs honored by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation at the IPM Achievement Awards ceremony in February.
The Cal Poly Pomona group is researching the most effective ways to raise Tamarixia radiata, a natural predator of the Asian citrus psyllid, and to advance efforts to lower populations of the psyllid through biological control. Additionally, they are actively involved in outreach to educate the public on this damaging disease. ACP populations can carry the deadly citrus plant disease Huanglongbing, threatening California’s $2 billion citrus crop.
A greenhouse built on the Cal Poly Pomona campus in 2016 allows researchers to rear both the psyllid and wasp in a safe, contained environment. Already almost 100 students have participated in research projects related to the debilitating pest and the beneficial insect that helps control the Asian citrus psyllid, according to Valerie Mellano, chair of Cal Poly Pomona’s Department of Plant Science and board chair of the Biological Control Task Force. Fourteen of those students are now in graduate school with many continuing to conduct ACP research.
The more psyllids researchers can rear, the more Tamarixia wasps they can likewise produce. The university holds a permit from the California Department of Food & Agriculture to raise the insects in a controlled environment.
The wasps are a key part of the first biocontrol program that successfully targeted and reduced ACP populations in urban areas and citrus orchards in sensitive urban sites. At this time, the project has been successfully implemented in several counties, including Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Imperial, San Diego, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.