Florida’s orange crop estimate sinks lower as tree-killing disease spreads

Greening disease causes fruit to become lopsided and taste bitter.

Greening disease causes fruit to become lopsided and taste bitter.

Florida’s signature crop continues to be hammered by greening disease, and Thursday the U.S. Department of Agriculture reduced its orange crop forecast for the 2016-17 season.

The Florida all orange forecast, at 71 million  90-pound boxes  is down 1 million boxes from last month’s estimate of 72 million,  and down 13 percent from last season’s final utilization of 81.6 million boxes.

The grapefruit crop estimate dropped to 9 million boxes from 9.3 million boxes in December. Florida produced 10.8 million boxes of grapefruit in the 2015-16 season.

Greening is a bacterial disease spread by the tiny Asian citrus psyllid. It was first confirmed in August 2005 in Miami-Dade County. By that October, it was found in Palm Beach, Broward and Hendry, and since then has spread throughout Florida and to other states such as Texas and California.

Florida growers produced a peak of 244 million boxes of oranges in the 1997-98 season.

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam said Thursday, “Because of citrus greening, production of our state’s signature crop is down 70 percent from 20 years ago. The future of Florida citrus, and the tens of thousands of jobs it supports, depends on a long-term solution in the fight against greening. Our brightest minds are working to find a solution, but until then, we must support our growers and provide them every tool available to combat this devastating disease.”

Putnam has requested more than $17 million in state funding to continue critical research and support Florida’s citrus industry.

Still have a citrus tree? Here are some greening symptoms:

•Leaf yellowing or blotchy mottling of leaves

•Lopsided and bitter fruit

•Fruit that remains green even when ripe

•Twig dieback and stunted sparsely foliated trees that may bloom off season.

 

 

Reader Comments 0

0 comments