Since it was confirmed in Florida 25 years ago, citrus greening disease has slashed citrus production in the state by 75 percent and infected trees in Louisiana, Texas, and California. USDA researchers said on Thursday they have found a potential remedy that boosts a citrus tree’s natural resistance to disease, including citrus greening.
California, for decades the No. 2 grower, is roaring into the lead as the largest orange-producing state in the nation, said the Agriculture Department on Wednesday. It forecast an orange crop of 1.84 million tons in California this season, more than double Florida’s projected hurricane-damaged harvest of 720,000 tons.
Hurricanes Ian and Nicole pummeled Florida's orange groves this fall, resulting in the smallest orange crop since the 1937-38 season, according to a USDA estimate.
Thanks to a huge decline in the Florida crop this season, California is running neck and neck with the Sunshine State as the top orange-producing state with the harvest season in its final weeks, said the USDA. California has expanded production in recent years while output in Florida, hit by the tree-killing citrus greening disease, has fallen steeply over the past two decades.
Citing damage to the citrus industry, 23 of Florida's 27 U.S. representatives signed a letter to House leaders asking for $1.5 billion in disaster funds for the state's agricultural industry. Some farm leaders hope the aid will be part of a funding bill to keep the federal government operating past this Friday, when short-term funding runs out.
Florida was on track for its first increase in orange production in five years until Hurricane Irma pounded the state last month with the crop nearly ready for harvest. USDA's Agricultural Statistics Board, in a rare statement, said the crop could have been 75.5 million boxes based on its survey work before the hurricane, instead of the 54 million boxes forecast afterward, the smallest crop since 1947.
Entomologists from UC-Riverside and the California Agriculture Department "have launched a classical biological control program to reduce ACPs [Asian citrus psyllids] in the state's urban areas," says the UC Food Observer. The tiny psyllid help spread the devastating citrus greening disease, which results in bitter, misshapen fruit and eventually kills infected trees.
The tiny Asian citrus psyllid, which spreads citrus greening disease, was identified for the first time in Monterey County, on California's central coast, says AgNet West. California is the second-largest citrus state in the country and agricultural officials hope to avoid damage to the state's groves.
Around the world, people are drinking less orange juice, with consumption down one-fifth in the past decade to roughly 1.9 million tonnes this year. Production, dominated by Brazil and the United States, peaked five years ago and has generally declined since.
University of Florida researchers say they have developed genetically modified citrus trees that resist the greening disease that threatens to destroy the industry. Citrus greening, spread by the tiny psyllid lice, causes misshapen fruit and eventually kills most infected trees.
Florida's citrus industry is "in an accelerating tailspin," with an orange crop forecast by USDA to be the smallest in 52 years, says the Tampa Bay Times. "The new forecast is a startling 17 percent drop in one year, raising questions of when — or if — Florida's citrus business will be able to stabilize."
A large Florida citrus grower and processor, Southern Gardens Citrus based in Clewiston, "is growing genetically modified fruit that’s resistant to the citrus greening disease," said The Packer.
Orange production will drop by 7 percent this year due to lower yields among the four major growers, Brazil, China, the United States and the European Union, which account for two-thirds of world output, says the USDA.
The fatal citrus greening disease was confirmed for the second time in the San Gabriel section of Los Angeles County, reports the Fresno Bee.
The Agriculture Department awarded $53 million for research to help growers combat citrus greening, a devastating plant disease, and to search for a way to prevent it.
There would be no significant environmental impact from releasing a parasitic wasp "to reduce the severity of infestations of" a tiny insect that spreads citrus greening disease, which kills citrus trees.
The government will pay up to half of the cost to remove Florida citrus trees infected with the ruinous citrus greening disease and two-thirds of the cost of planting new ones, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Florida is the No 1 citrus state, responsible for more than 60 percent of U.S. production. Citrus is a $9 billion industry for Florida.