U.S. goes into battle
against deadly orange disease
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[June 13, 2014]
By Ros Krasny
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The
U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on Thursday a
total of $31.5 million in funding to combat a plant
disease that threatens to devastate Florida's $9 billion
citrus industry and has driven up the cost of a glass of
As many as 70 percent of Florida’s citrus trees are believed to be
infected by citrus greening disease, or huanglongbing, which is
caused by bacteria deposited on trees by an insect called the Asian
"The citrus industry and the thousands of jobs it supports are
depending on groundbreaking research to neutralize this threat,"
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.
In a monthly report on Wednesday USDA showed sharp cuts to Florida's
projected output of various citrus fruits, including oranges,
grapefruit and tangelos.
The state's 2013/14 orange crop is now forecast at 104.3 million
boxes, down 21.5 percent from 133 million in 2012/13. As recently as
November it was expected to be 125 million boxes.
Florida produces over 60 percent of the U.S. orange crop. Its
struggles pushed orange juice prices to their highest levels in more
than two years this spring, and prices are still up about 19 percent
for 2014 to date.
The funding from USDA will include $25 million for research and
Cooperative Extension Service projects, and another $6.5 million for
projects under the wing of a multiagency coordination group set up
earlier this year.
Greening is considered one of the most serious citrus diseases in
the world and has been found in several countries in Asia, Africa,
the Indian subcontinent and the Arabian Peninsula after being
discovered in Brazil a decade ago.
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Affected trees may show twig dieback, causing reduced productivity
within a few years, and fruit can fail to color properly, be
misshapen and have a bitter taste.
State authorities first found HLB in south Florida in 2005. Since
then it has occurred in all counties with commercial citrus
The University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural
Sciences estimates lost revenues to the state since 2006 at $4.5
(Reporting by Ros Krasny; Additional reporting by Barbara Liston in
Orlando; Editing by Eric Beech)
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