Florida Citrus Industry Threatened

The Asian citrus-psyllid

The Asian citrus-psyllid

It’s not cold weather, hurricanes, or drought that threatens Florida’s citrus crops, but the Asian Citrus Psyllid that carries the deadly citrus disease Huanglongbing.

The insect, which spread into the state from Latin America, has already reduced crop forecasts by 9-percent. Some speculate Florida’s US$9 billion orange crop, the second-largest in the world after Brazil’s, may not survive the incurable disease. Groves throughout the United States are threatened.

“You travel to Florida, and you talk to the producers there, and you come back and you have lumps in your throat,” president of grower group California Citrus Mutual, Joel Nelson, told the Australian Broadcast Company. “Each grower tells a different story as to what impressed them and distressed them from a Florida situation.”

There’s no known cure for the “citrus greening”, despite the best efforts of numerous research labs.  Will a spinach gene save  America’s orange trees? Or will the California’s farmers importing of a Pakistan wasp, known by the scientific nom de gurerre Tamarixia eradicate the menace?

The Pakistan wasp “is going to be our number one weapon to control the Asian Citrus Pysllid,” said Mark Hoddle, an invasive species expert at UC Riverside.  “We have no other choice except to use this natural enemy or do nothing, and the “do nothing” potion is unacceptable.”

As researchers continue to find ways to eradicate citrus greening, Coca-Cola, which owns Minute Maid, has announced it will invest US$2 billion to plant 25,000 acres of new Florida orange groves.

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