Not fresh, from concentrate . . .

orange juice

Photo credit: USDA ARS, Scott Bauer

by Christian Young, Plant Health Management major

Although not as well-known as late blight of potato or ergot of rye, citrus greening, a vector transmitted plant pathogen, is threatening the continued existence of Florida’s citrus industry.

As goes Florida’s citrus industry, so goes the jobs of nearly 76,000 individuals.

Valued at well over $10 billion, the citrus industry is currently held in limbo as various plant scientists and geneticists work to acquire a permanent solution to the disease.

Citrus greening, or huanglongbing (HLB), is a bacterial disease that spreads through the Asian psyllid, a tiny insect that consumes sap from leaves, meanwhile transmitting the bacterium. Originally found in Asia and eventually South America, the disease has been infecting thousands of acres in Florida for nearly a decade.

While various treatments and methods have been attempted, there has yet to be a completely effective eradicator or preventative measure. Fortunately, in late 2015 researchers at the University of Florida released information regarding the development of a genetically engineered orange tree that initially appears to be resistant to the disease.

Unfortunately for Florida’s number one fruit crop and most of their employees, it may be as long as multiple years before a GM orange tree is available for commercial cultivation. In the meantime, we all may need to prepare to harken back to the 1950’s and ‘60’s, when OJ came from a can in the freezer and you added water to it.

Consider it nostalgia.

How Long Can Florida’s Citrus Industry Survive? by Greg Allen (NPR)

UF creates trees with enhanced resistance to greening, University of Florida news release

About the author: Christian Young is a Plant Health Management major in his junior year. Upon graduation he plans to take advantage of entrepreneurial opportunities within industry, striving to develop highly-profitable, less-invasive methods of agricultural production and resource extraction.

This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *