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Upbeat, with a caveat

By   /   Friday, January 7th, 2011  /   Comments Off on Upbeat, with a caveat

Citrus pest could spoil banner year for ag

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By Marlize van Romburgh
Staff Writer

Emily Ayala and her father, Tony Thacher, at Friend’s Ranch, their family’s Ojai citrus farm. Like the rest of the region’s citrus growers, they’re concerned about the Asian citrus psyllid.

The arrival of a tiny, disease-carrying pest in Ventura County’s citrus orchards puts a sour twist on an otherwise sweet forecast for the agriculture industry.

By all accounts, the Tri-Counties’ booming ag industry is on the upswing. The region’s overall crop values increased 3.1 percent in 2009, according to a Business Times analysis of the three counties’ crop reports. Santa Paula-based avocado company Calavo Growers reported record growth in 2010 [see page 9A]. And the region’s wine industry continues to flourish, with the Paso Robles area garnering a number of accolades from industry leaders last year and the overall value of the wine crop in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties soaring 44.5 percent in 2009.

But the recent discovery of the region’s first Asian citrus psyllid, an invasive pest that can carry a disease lethal to citrus trees, brings with it a much larger concern that the region’s citrus industry — a $150 million-a-year business — could be decimated in less than a decade if the threat isn’t brought under control.

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About the author

Managing Editor

Marlize van Romburgh covers banking, finance, agricultural and viticulture. She writes a weekly column on commercial real estate and a monthly column on the restaurant industry. Follow her at @marlizevr

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