Stephen Futch, Ph.D., Extension Agent, Multi-County with the University of Florida citrus research and education center in Lake Alfred, Florida says,
“There will always be a citrus industry in Florida, but it will be different in the future than it is today. We will have to learn to live with the disease or come up with a solution; by creating an improved tree that will resist the disease.”
Asian citrus psyllid (ACP), is still spreading the disease and first appeared in Florida in 1998 in Palm Beach County. The Asian citrus psyllid is a tiny mottled brown insect that poses a serious threat to citrus trees; including those grown in home gardens and on farms. The psyllid feeds on all varieties of citrus; oranges, grapefruit lemons, and mandarins.
This psyllid damages citrus directly by feeding on new leaf growth. Their feeding twists and curls young leaves and kills or burns back new shoots. More seriously, the insect is a vector of the bacterium associated with the fatal citrus disease huanglongbing (HLB), also called citrus greening disease.
The Asian citrus psyllid and huanglongbing disease (HLB) originated in Asia or India and then spread to other areas of the world where citrus is grown.The psyllid takes the bacteria into its body when it feeds on bacteria-infected plants. The disease spreads when a bacteria-carrying psyllid flies to a healthy plant and injects bacteria into it as it feeds. HLB was first discovered in 2005 in Homestead, Florida.
The impact of HLD causes monumental damage in terms of dollars as well. The Florida citrus industry has a $10 billion economic impact on the state of Florida. Florida could lose up to 20,000 jobs if the crop falls below 80 million boxes. The Florida crop this past season, 2015-2016 was 81.4 million boxes. Brazil set out to be a source of alternate supply to fill the existing demand for citrus products in the United States and Europe; by the 1980s, Brazil had become the largest supplier of citrus fruit and juice. There are no citrus species that are immune to HLB; including those trees grown in Brazil.
Trying to combat the problem has been brutal. Futch said, “In the last 10 or 12 years there has been over $200 million spent in research trying to beat this bug. Of that, the Florida Citrus growers have put in 30 to 40 percent.” The state paid for the rest. How it got here, no one really knows, but he suspects it came in via someone bringing in a tree illegally from another country.Our sub-tropical weather affects product and prices, too. Prior to 2003-2004 and three named hurricanes, the total citrus production in Florida was 300 million boxes of fruit; today, we’re estimated to produce around 90 million boxes.
“Virtually all groves in Florida have HLB. Symptoms of HLB are yellowing veins, blotchy appearance, fruit that is lopsided, premature fruit drop, and smaller fruit. HLB affects the roots to the shoots. You can’t prune out the affected part of the plant because the bacteria spreads throughout, like cancer,” Futch said.
HLB does not affect the juice or humans.
Property prices have an effect as well. Records show Florida growers were spending eight hundred dollars an acre to grow the crop, while today that cost has more than doubled to nineteen hundred dollars an acre. Production on a worldwide basis has decreased, but he doesn’t see the price the consumer pays increasing unless growers locally decide to pack it in and grow something else.
Read in full: http://naplesherald.com/2016/07/08/talk-of-the-town-are-florida-oranges-still-reeling-from-acp-insects/