The destruction caused by citrus greening has many facets, and one of those is a hundred thousand-plus acres of abandoned citrus groves. Filled with dead or dying citrus trees, the abandoned groves are a dangerous casualty in the war against citrus greening (HLB). A new law goes into effect July 1st with the aim of giving the citrus grove land owners an incentive to remove the trees from the property.

The Problem with Infected Citrus Groves

Abandoned citrus groves are labeled as those where the land owner has abandoned any attempts at upkeep of the grove. This is especially important when it comes to spraying pesticides that are meant to kill the Asian citrus psyllid, the miniscule insect responsible for the transmittance of the bacteria that causes citrus greening. Abandoned groves become a breeding ground for the insect. The psyllids then spread to surrounding groves that are not abandoned, making it harder to control the insect’s population.

Owners’ Complaints

Clearing a citrus grove of its orange trees once all income from those trees has stopped is an expensive proposition for the grove owner. The biggest hurdle has been that land owners would lose their Greenbelt Exemption once the trees were cleared away; the tax break that reduced the land’s tax bill by a significant amount. For many growers already hurting financially from loses stemming from citrus greening, walking away from infected groves seemed the only option.

Development groups added another dimension to the problem as well. Prior to the financial crisis of 2008, developers bought citrus groves with the intent of turning the land into housing developments and commercial properties. They also agreed to pay the relatively inexpensive upkeep and operating costs (compared to today’s expensive costs) for the groves until the land was converted. However, the housing crash and an increase in HLB infections both hit in 2008, and developers and banks became unwilling to pay ever-increasing upkeep costs for land that they no longer planned to develop. Thus, even more citrus groves sat abandoned.

New Law Helps Citrus Grove Owners

The new law ensures that grove owners will be able to keep their Greenbelt Exemption status as long as they do not switch the use of the land over to residential or commercial use during that time. The law was inspired by what property appraisers in Polk County and Highlands Country were already doing for their abandoned citrus groves.

Hopefully, the five-year grace period will be enough for a viable treatment or cure for citrus greening, and abandoned citrus groves can once again be planted with healthy, producing trees.

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.