Treasure Coast Essay
7:20 am
Mon December 30, 2013

Our citrus groves in danger

The insect is called a psyllid, from the Greek psylla for flea.  It is no bigger than a pinhead.  But psyllids are causing enormous damage to citrus groves in Florida, including those on the Treasure Coast.  The psyllids carry a disease called citrus greening, which makes grapefruit, oranges and lemons ripen quickly, drop prematurely, look ugly and taste bitter.  The fruit cannot be marketed, and the disease can eventually kill the tree.  Florida’s grapefruit crop – three-fourths of which comes from the Indian River district – is expected to be down 9 percent from last season.  Florida’s orange crop also will be down 9 percent from last season.  The disease-bearing psyllids came from Asia and are infecting citrus groves in several states.  Florida has been hit the hardest.  Since 2005, citrus greening has cost the state’s citrus industry $4 billion and 6,000 jobs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently launched an “emergency response network” to battle citrus greening and focus federal research on fighting the disease.  Let’s hope those psyllids can be wiped out.  One USDA administrator told the Associated Press: “We’re treating this almost like a hurricane response.  The future of the citrus industry is at stake.”  For 88.9 FM, this is Paul Janensch.