From: Gregg Allen, NPR
Published December 28, 2013 09:04 AM

Florida citrus at risk

It's not been a good year for Florida's citrus industry. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that, for the second year running, the orange crop is expected to be almost 10 percent lower than the previous year.

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The culprit is citrus greening, a disease that has devastated Florida's oranges and grapefruits, and has now begun to spread in Texas and California.

Back in the 1950s and '60s, the Florida Citrus Tower was one of the Orlando area's most important tourist attractions.

"You could go up and see thousands and thousands acres of trees," says citrus grower Benny McLean. "And you could buy fresh-squeezed orange juice, or you could buy a bag of navels. So it was a big deal back then."

It all ended with a series of freezes in the 1980s that devastated citrus in Central Florida. In the '83 freeze, 300,000 acres of mature, fruit-bearing orange and grapefruit trees died in a single night. Growers eventually recovered by moving and replanting groves further south.

Citrus greening poses a similar crisis for growers, but one for which so far, there is no solution.

"I can't imagine Florida without commercial citrus," says Harold Browning, director of the Citrus Research and Development Foundation, an industry group that is focused almost entirely on one problem: defeating citrus greening.

Oranges on the tree image via Shutterstock.

Read more at NPR.

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