Citrus industry’s clock is ticking; researchers working to find a solution in time


FLORIDA’S CITRUS INDUSTRY has suffered significant losses due to citrus greening since the bacteria was detected in a South Florida grove in 2005. Annual harvest numbers have fallen year after year while the costs to maintain a grove in the face of HLB has doubled. The question has long been, “How long can the citrus industry continue in such a manner?” Researchers with the USDA have crunched the numbers and believe they’ve arrived at a doomsday date for Florida’s citrus industry if the HLB nut isn’t cracked soon.

According to Bob Shatters, a research molecular biologist with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service in Fort Pierce, Florida’s citrus industry can soldier on for about three more years, until 2019. The data shown by mathematical models and forecasts of HLB’s impact indicate that the industry can stay afloat until then. However, into 2019, barring some sort of solution, the industry will not be economically viable.

Those in Florida’s citrus industry are doing everything possible to toe the line until a cure or long-term effective treatment is found, and research is being conducted at a furious pace. In fact, much of the latest findings are showing great promise and providing hope for growers. From treating citrus trees with heat to CRISPR gene-editing research ongoing at the Citrus Research and Education Center (CREC), the best and brightest in the scientific community now have a deadline to beat in the race to save Florida’s citrus industry.

CREDIT

column by MICHAEL MARTIN

BIO: Michael Martin of Martin Law Office in Lakeland specializes in agriculture and environmental legal representation. A native of Polk County, Mike attended college at Sewanee in Tennessee, before obtaining a doctorate in law from the University of Florida. He has tried numerous cases nationwide since that time. Mike also serves as the director of the FFA Foundation and is the author of the novel, The Crestfallen Rose. To learn more, visit martinpa.com.