Asian Citrus Psyllid Eradication Program Causes Outbreak of Citrus Leafminer

Florida citrus farmers have been blanketing their orchards with pesticides in an attempt to eliminate the Asian Citrus Psyllid, an insect that caries a fatal citrus disease. But the campaign has had unintended consequences, namely the eradication of the natural predators of another citrus pest, the leafminer. According to the USDA Agricultural Research Service,

“The leafminer moth, Phyllocnistis citrella, forms channels as it feeds inside citrus leaves and, as a result, often makes the plant more susceptible to canker disease. Further exacerbating the leafminer problem is the spraying of more insecticide to combat another pest—the Asian citrus psyllid. The insecticide is killing off the leafminers’ natural enemies, allowing the pest to increase in numbers.”

The moral, in my opinion, is the same for both nature and the economy: don’t tinker with complex systems and avoid putting all your eggs in one basket, i.e. crop monocultures. Doing so is asking for “black swans” and catastrophic failure. As Nassim Taleb says, “counter-balance complexity with simplicity.” The race to layer insecticides on top of insecticides and then search for pheromonal solutions is too complex for my taste.

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  1. Agreed. Sometimes, you just gotta lose a tree.

    Thanks for that link to the Archdruid, whose stuff I find fascinating. If I don’t learn anything else, I can at least remember that energy is linear, matter is circular. I try to buys things with the closed loop life cycle in mind, but it was interesting to read that even if you *think* you’re buying something that has a linear life cycle, it really has a circular life cycle- it’s going to show up somewhere, sometime. Insecticides fall into that category.

  2. When I worked with USDA APHIS in the 90’s they were committed to bio-control methods using inspect predation. Unfortunately over the years the corporations making pesticides, herbicides and genetically engineering crops and even animals have paid off the politicians who fund and control (money=control) APHIS to include the revolving door of the former executives who have sold their souls and gone to work for the big multi-national corporations whose only goal is to MAKE MONEY. They lobby and convince Congress of what is “good for everybody”. Remind you of the Michael Clayton movie? It should.

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