Citrus in the USA
America’s state of Florida has been home to commercially farmed citrus since the mid-1800s, and today it is a US$9 billion industry, employing nearly 76,000 Floridians. The Sunshine State grows more than 74 million citrus trees on more than half a million acres (200,000 ha), which provides for 90 percent of America’s orange juice consumption. Any damage to the crop would have serious consequences on Americans’ vitamin C intake!
Richard Dicks runs several of his family’s orange groves near Dundee, Fla., and has encountered many pests over the years. “These days we are fighting citrus greening, which is a pretty devastating disease,” he says. Richard adds that once a tree is infected with citrus greening, there is no cure. The disease has devastated millions of acres of citrus crops throughout the United States and abroad. “Some farmers are losing 40 to 70 percent of their production – enough to put them out of business,” says plant scientist Jude Grosser.
New biotech citrus trees, resistant to citrus greening, are being developed by a team at the University of Florida, led by Jude. “We are working to combine emerging biotechnologies with conventional technologies to develop improved rootstocks for the Florida citrus industry and beyond. With disease-resistant biotech varieties, yields could even exceed traditional highs,” in harvests, says Jude. He continues: “Without our efforts, the number of people able to enjoy delicious and nutritious citrus products will decline substantially. It is really rewarding to positively impact the availability and quality of citrus fruits and products marketed worldwide.”