The citrus industry in Florida has been hit hard by citrus greening, also known as HLB. and many have wondered how long the industry can hold on in the face of the harvest loses and tree deaths caused by the HLB disease. It looks as if the answer may be not much longer. One researcher, Bob Shatters, a research molecular biologist with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service in Fort Pierce, FL, believes Florida’s citrus industry has about three more years of economic viability without a change in the current state of the industry.
The Citrus Industry’s Outlook
According to Shatters, in a Southeast Farm Press article, mathematical models and forecasts of the HLB’s impact show that Florida’s citrus industry can only remain commercially practical up to 2019. After that, the industry will not have the means to remain viable.
Recent studies have shown that 80 percent to 90 percent of Florida’s citrus trees are infected with the disease. On average, the disease cuts a citrus tree’s fruit production by 40 percent and doubles the input costs of grove maintenance. Many producers have been unable to continue in the face of such numbers. The industry as a whole will not be able to go on in such a manner forever.
Promising Research to Save the Industry
Shatters maintained that various points of research look very promising for turning the industry around. At this point, new research is being implemented to help keep growers viable, Shatters shared, until a cure or treatment for citrus greening is found. An example of sustaining research is heat treatments.
Infected citrus trees are covered with large canopies and then hot water or steam is injected to raise the temperatures of the trees for a short time, killing the bacteria. Such treatments can extend a citrus tree’s life and productivity by a few years. Similar research holds promises for both treatments and, hopefully one day, a cure.
Griffin Fertilizer is committed to helping both growers and ranchers make sound agronomic and economic decisions in order to maximize the health of their grove and pasture. As a full-service custom dry & liquid fertilizer blender and crop protection product distributor, we will continue our mission to further advance Florida agriculture. For questions or concerns about your farm or pasture, contact us and one of our team will be in touch.