Florida’s citrus industry is grappling with the most serious threat in its history: a bacterial disease with no cure that has infected all 32 of the state’s citrus-growing counties. Although the disease, citrus greening, was first spotted in Florida in 2005, this year’s losses from it are by far the most extensive.
While the bacteria, which causes fruit to turn bitter and drop from the trees when still unripe, affects all citrus fruits, it has been most devastating to oranges, the largest crop. So many have been affected that the United States Department of Agriculture has downgraded its crop estimates five months in a row, an extraordinary move, analysts said.
Some orange packers and small and midsize growers have sold their groves, razed them for development, or simply abandoned them. Others have postponed replanting lost trees, which take five years to mature, until they know whether a cure will be found. Many more, including the largest growers, are doing what they can to survive; they say they are optimistic they can hold on long enough for researchers to find a treatment.