Shades of Grey in Florida Orange Disaster

Ginger's picture
Just read a fascinating article in the Huffington Post -

Citrus Greening Forces Florida Growers To Trust A Controversial Savior

There's this citrus disease, huanglongbing, or "citrus greening", that's destroyed every citrus industry it's met to date. Around 2006, it arrived in Florida and Brazil's São Paulo State, which together grew 80% of the world's oranges. The disease bacterium is spread by a tiny psylid insect, and attacks the phloem of the tree, the arterial flow between roots and branches. This takes a year or so to destroy the tree's crop, then no more fruit, then the tree dies. There was no cure, no effective treatment. Farmers were told they had no choice but quarantine tactics - kill them all so that the disease would stop spreading.

But the disease spread to 100% of the Florida orange growing counties - in less than three years. The disease is just now starting to hit the citrus industries of California, Texas, Arizona and Mexico. And they're trying the quarantine-the-sick thing - which doesn't work. The disease spreads too readily.

One grower, Maury Boyd, refused to give in and destroy all his orange groves without a fight. His trees are infected - no question. But he applied some careful reasoning and deep knowledge of his plants, and is continuing to get harvestable crop. In fact, his crops are now bigger than before the disease hit.

His treatment has two main prongs:
  1. Foliar feeding the sick tree, to make up for the damaged circulation.
  2. Pile on heavier pesticides than were ever used in Florida before huanglongbing arrived, to kill every psylid.
The first is brilliant, and I want to try it on some of my my September-sick plants tomorrow. The tomatoes and cucurbits (cukes, melons) are looking frightful. They always do, by August's end. This blight, that mildew, this bacteria, that insect...

The second prong is kind of devastating. Those heavy levels of pesticides do make it into the orange juice supply America is drinking. Some of them (the ones Maury Boyd uses) are below the FDA's limits. Another is lethal, probably ought to be banned altogether, and makes thousands of Americans sick each year from our food supply, and is linked to bee failure.

Apparently there are also organic orange tree groves using Boyd's methods in Florida, with different organically-listed pest management, and it's working for them. To some extent - all this treatment is only economically viable because the price of oranges has skyrocketed. They can't cure the trees, only treat them heavily to keep them productive.

And then there was the other angle. If not oranges, what do the citrus groves grow instead? Apparently São Paulo has shifted to biofuels.

Anyway, long article, and a very good one! The shades of grey, limited triumph against a merciless foe, just went on and on.
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Ginger's picture
Last seen: 3 weeks 1 day ago
Joined: 2008-06-23 15:55
Aw! Found an antidote to that

Moderator. Author of Indoor SaladEcigs 102, and the Calm Act climate apocalyptic series.

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