Florida’s farmers could lose a percentage of their citrus this year due to premature drops. When citrus trees overproduce, the extra fruit is shed early.
The overproduction can be caused by warm temperatures during the winter season, early blooming and the greening disease. The greening disease is caused by the bacterium Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus and affects young trees. Tree limbs die back, and the trees produce small, lopsided citrus with a salty, bitter taste.
“You’re seeing an 18 to 20 percent drop,” said Doug Ackerman, Florida Department of Citrus director. “One out of every five oranges that you are going to harvest and put in a box is laying on the ground rotting.”
Ackerman told state lawmakers this is the worst case of citrus drop in more than 40 years.
Ackerman blames Florida’s growing conditions and citrus greening disease for the early drop in citrus fruits. Brazil and other citrus-growing regions in the world have been struggling with the greening disease as well, according to 2012-2013 Florida Trends report by the Florida Department of Citrus.
Citrus drop could be the least of the industry’s worries if the state is in for a big freeze in the coming weeks that could devastate the industry.