Photo of an Orange
Orange Trees in Florida are being infected by disease. CC by ccharmon/Flickr

In Florida, an incurable bacteria threatens citrus groves. The bacteria, known as Huanglongbing, citrus greening or HIB, is carried by insects. Somewhere between 1 percent and 3 percent of Florida citrus trees are killed by this disease each year.

Juice oranges are the incurable bacteria’s food

There are many places in the United States where citrus is grown. California and Florida grow most of it. Most oranges for eating come from California, and most juice oranges come from Florida. Farmers are ending up with sour, deformed, dry fruit because of the incurable bacteria infesting citrus groves in Florida. The tree that has infected fruit ends up dying because of the citrus greening disease. There is normally a 1 percent to 3 percent die-off rate for citrus, but now a 3 percent to 5 percent die-off rate is being seen in citrus groves. The freezing temperatures have been killing fruit as well.

Citrus groves need a cure

More than 12 countries sent researchers to attend a conference where citrus greening was discussed. There are two trees in particular being studied right now by a group of researches because the incurable bacteria is more likely to be in them. Right now, monoculture is the way that most citrus groves and agriculture fields are grown, which means a farmer can lose a whole grove in just days because of insects carrying the disease.

The ‘citrus delay’ dangers

The incurable bacteria that threaten citrus groves are particularly dangerous because they threaten young trees. It takes between three and five years for a newly planted young citrus tree to start developing fruit and up to seven years to reach full maturity. Farmers can easily lose a decade of investment to the Huanglongbing because young trees are usually attacked. Genetic lines are attacked as well. That means developing a new breed of tree that is resistant is out of the question.



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