Can you imagine what your store would look like if the orange juice section was suddenly empty or produce shelves were void of all oranges, grapefruit, lemons and limes? We all need to be concerned that this is possible in light of the disease citrus greening.
Today, the Florida (and world-wide) citrus industry is faced with a disease that has the potential to eliminate all forms of citrus from the produce section and retail shelves of stores. Huanglongbing, HLB, or greening is a disease that affects the overall health of the citrus tree and the resulting production of the fruit, but does not pose any public health concerns in citrus products.
Florida has always been known for its large and sprawling acreage of citrus groves throughout the state. Today, it is illustrated with groves that are now open land, abandoned, or with remaining trees that are near death. For fruit that is grown and harvested, the fruit can be smaller and misshapen and not as sweet as expected.
The disease is transmitted and spread by an insect, the Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) that is as prevalent in Florida as the mosquito. Attempts to control this insect involve an increased use of approved chemicals, causing an increase in cost of production and an unknown impact on the environment for the future.
This disease was detected and confirmed in Florida in 2005. Within three years, every citrus producing county in Florida was noted to be dealing with the disease. The disease is now present in Texas and California. In the State of Florida alone, production volumes are estimated at a 70% reduction from just 11 years ago. Today, the insect and/or the HLB greening disease has been confirmed in every citrus producing region in the world.
Since this disease was first detected, there have been multiple research projects and millions of dollars invested by the citrus industry to combat the disease and to date, nothing has been totally successful. Every person and entity involved with the research on this disease is open to the most practical and effective solution that can be identified. However, there is a general consensus amongst the research community and industry that genetic engineering will be the ultimate solution. Southern Gardens Citrus has an on-going focused research effort utilizing biotechnology to eliminate this disease.
In the next newsletter article, we will examine and highlight the impact of this disease at the grower level as the disease is already causing multi-generational citrus growing families to leave the citrus industry for other forms of businesses.