THE HARM that the citrus greening (Huanglongbing, or HLB) disease has done to the Florida citrus industry in the past decade is undeniable, but also undeniable is the full-court-press effort to do something about it. That effort breeds not just optimism but confidence that greening is going to be whipped.
The war against greening is being waged on many fronts. Here are just a few of the recent developments in the fight:
• In early February, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released $30 million to fund 22 priority HLB research projects.
• In the new state budget, the Florida Department of Agriculture received more than $20 million to carry out additional greening research, grow clean citrus stock, and remove and replace diseased trees. The department also has expanded its citrus budwood center and opened a new “germplasm” facility. Both are intended to help growers replant lost trees and develop new citrus varieties resistant to greening.
• The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved further development of a spinach protein, researched at a Texas A&M, which could be used to produce genetically modified and greening-resistant oranges.
• The state has approved $1 million for a promising University of Florida greening research project. A team is developing a microbial-based product, which, when infused with plant-defense inducers and beneficial bacteria strains, could be a cure for HLB.
• Some growers simply are returning to denser plantings in the groves as a way to increase citrus yields per acre and compensate for trees that might become fatally diseased by greening.
In the fight against greening, this is all good news — the kind that motivates all of us in the citrus industry to battle on until victory over the disease is achieved.
column by CHARLES COUNTER
BIO: Charles Counter started in the agriculture business in 1986. He is the Director of Field Operations for the Haines City Citrus Growers Association, managing over 7,000 acres of ag land in Florida. Established in 1909, the HCCGA provides for Complete Grove Development and Management, is a Member of Florida’s Natural, and operates as Caretaker and Packer of Citrus, as well as Organic & Conventional Peaches and Blueberries. To contact Charles, call (863) 557-0510 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.