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Kern County pesticide restrictions for land near citrus groves now in place

Lemon Blossom
Posted at 5:00 PM, Mar 29, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-29 20:00:57-04

SHAFTER, Calif. (KERO) — On March 29, Kern County Ag Commissioner Glenn Fankhauser declared land north of 7th Standard Road in Kern County is under a citrus bloom limiting pesticide use in those areas.

  • 23ABC spoke with Michelle Sans Soucie, Kern County's Supervising Agricultural Biologist and Jared Plumlee to learn why these restrictions are in place how they affect citrus grower operations in the meantime.
  • According to Sans Soucie, the restrictions are put in place to give bees an opportunity to stay safe and healthy through the remainder of the season as they forage through citrus blossoms to create orange or lemon honey. Sans Soucie said the laws in place dictate when and were growers and pesticide operators can spray, typically at at night.
  • Plumlee said right now, citrus trees typically don't need any form of pesticides this time of year, but as citrus groves get closer to 'petal drop', or the time in the season when citrus trees lose their flowers and begin to grow fruit, if the area is still under restrictions it could pose issues for growers.
  • According to the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, the restrictive period typically runs from March 15 to May 31.


I'm Sam Hoyle, your Shafter neighborhood reporter, as of 12:01 Friday, all land north of 7th standard road is under a citrus bloom declaration, following suit on the southside of this busy road. Meaning beekeepers, pest control operators, and citrus growers are now required to follow a specific set of laws to keep bees safe at the height of the growing season.

Michelle San Sousie, supervising biologist for the Kern County Ag Commission, says the reason behind having a declaration like this is to protect the pollinators during the height of the season.

"There are certain crops that can only be done with bee pollination so we need the bees to kind of help produce the foods that we like to eat. So this is just when the citrus is all in bloom and it's in high activity with bees, it's to protect those pollinators."

In short, the laws define when and where pesticides that are toxic to bees can be sprayed during this time period when citrus is blooming.

But according to Jared Plumlee of Booth Ranch, a citrus-growing operation spanning several counties, there's not much to think about because the regulations have been in place so long and citrus crops don't have much of a need for pesticides at this point..

"This particular period right before, what is called petal fall, there's not a huge demand for insecticides on citrus crops at that time."

Like Plumlee mentioned, as we get later in the season for citrus crops, a pest known as Citrus Thrips can cause damage to citrus fruits. If those hit before 'petal fall' and growers can't spray insecticide for them, it could be expensive. In Plumlee's experience, an open line of communication with the County Ag Commission and beekeepers in the area helps limit the damage.

"They'll work with you on that and you work with your beekeepers and try to get bees moved around and you might be able to get clearance to treat those specific issues if they arise."

Now while pesticide use in Kern County is greatly limited near citrus groves at this point, Sans Soucie said don't be alarmed if you see or hear pesticide applications happening in the evening as that's one of the main times it can be done during this period as bees go dormant for the day. In Shafter, I'm Sam Hoyle, your neighborhood reporter.

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