On a typical day at the port of Miami, thousands of goods and services come through the Customs Border Patrol for inspection before entering the country. In fact, it is the busiest port in the country, and it is here, in 2004, when citrus greening first came into Florida, said Doug Bournique, Indian River Citrus League President.
Huanglongbing, better known as Citrus Greening is a disease killing off Florida’s orange groves in unprecedented number. Brought into the United States by the asian citrus psyllid, the insect and its bacteria prevent nutrients from being absorbed by the tree, causing fruit to stay green and drop from the tree prior to maturity, never reaching the full size and sweetness typical for quality juice.
Citrus is big business for the state of Florida, and millions of dollars are being poured into research to study the problem, including a recent $1.5 million grant from Coca-Cola to the University of Florida.
University of Florida researchers estimate every grove across the state may be infected with the disease and many growers have lost their farms and their livelihoods.
UF’s Citrus Research and Education Center scientists now believe a cure is coming soon, but considerable damage has been done to the industry that has come to symbolize much more than a breakfast beverage.
In our first of a three-part series on citrus greening, WUFT’s Heather van Blokland takes us through a bit of history on Florida’s connection to the orange: