Hope is a funny thing. Most of the time, it is the driving force that keeps people going. But when struggle has become the norm, it’s a terrifying concept to commit to.
Last month, right after we put the October edition of Central Florida Ag News to bed, something happened that could change the outlook for the citrus industry. It was sneaky and delivered with little fanfare, but it was a harbinger of hope nonetheless. Strangely, though, there doesn’t seem to be much rejoicing.
The USDA’s official Citrus Forecast for the 2023-2024 year predicted an increase in Florida’s orange production at 20.5 million boxes. That’s 30 percent more — a substantial jump — than the 15.8 million boxes harvested in the 2022-2023 season.
Now, I know my inbox is going to be filling up with notes pointing out that we had significant damage from Hurricane Ian in 2022 so this season was bound to show an increase. While there’s some truth to that, a 30% increase adds up to good news for the industry. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take the good news where I can get it.
I think we owe much of that improved outlook to the continued research surrounding greening, including IPCs, CUPS, and OTC injections, to name a few.
Additional news released earlier this month serves to further build optimism.
- University of Florida scientists plan to create a Crop Transformation Center to help Florida growers improve production of citrus and other crops. One of the center’s biggest priorities is finding citrus varieties that can tolerate or maybe even resist citrus greening.
- About $5 million in grants from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture will help UF/IFAS look into gene editing and Integrated Pest Management as both relate to greening.
With so many resources dedicated to the problem, maybe this recent uptick is just the beginning. Some people talk about the glass being half full or half empty, but neither camp has it right. The glass is refillable.