The biggest threat to the Florida citrus industry is citrus greening disease, otherwise known as HLB (huanglongbing). Yet, most people aren’t aware of how serious a threat it really is. Can you imagine Wisconsin not producing cheese? It’s unthinkable, right? That is the reality that has been facing Florida citrus growers for about 15 years for their iconic crop.
Citrus greening (HLB) is caused by a bacteria passed on to orange trees by the Asian citrus psyllid as it feeds on the leaves and stems. Fortunately, HLB is not harmful in any way to people. However, it is thought that the bacteria feeds on the sugars and nutrients needed for fruit development, leaving the oranges to never fully ripen. The small, discolored and bitter fruit harvested from trees affected by greening is still used by some juice producers – apparently, up to 25% of the bitter juice can be added for volume, with the taste being augmented by oils from the peels or other flavor sources (yuk!).
The only current solution for greening is isolation and destruction of the infected trees as there is no known cure. Many growers have started netting healthy trees to prevent infection. Transportation, planting, and even tools and equipment have to be carefully watched to prevent the spread of greening. Many other strategies have been used, with varied levels of success.
While scientists and the citrus industry are working hard to find a solution, the availability of healthy fruit has been drastically reduced over the past few decades. From 2007 to 2017, US production is estimated to be down by over 72%, with California surpassing Florida in citrus production in the 2019 season.
Tree-Ripe supports our farmers working hard to fight this situation. We source your fruit from healthy trees and are always on the lookout for new varieties and new growing locations. Also, we make it a priority to stay in close contact with our growers to determine the quality of each crop. We will not bring you low-quality fruit or fruit that has been affected by greening. The is why we’ve had to suspend offering Florida Navel oranges for the time being.
We’re really excited to see the excellent growing conditions in north Florida, where greening has not been found yet. And for growers in south Florida where greening has had the largest impact, they continue to battle this huge challenge and are persevering through it. We’re very hopeful for what the next few years hold for Florida citrus. You can be confident that we’ll keep finding the best citrus and bringing it to you, wherever it’s being grown!