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article imageCitrus greening hits Florida's orange supply

By Tim Sandle     Sep 21, 2014 in Environment
Miami - Florida produced 104 million boxes of oranges last year. This was half the amount from 10 years ago. The reason? An infection called citrus greening.
Citrus greening was first spotted in 2004. It has now extended to almost every orange grove in the state. Such is the extent of the spread that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has implemented a plant quarantine in infected areas in an effort to halt its spread.
Citrus greening or "Yellow Dragon Disease" (Huanglongbing) is a disease of citrus caused by a vector-transmitted bacterium called Candidatus Liberibacter species (the bacterium, unusually, has a two part name where both parts are in capital letters. The term Candidatus is used to indicate that it has not proved possible to maintain this bacterium in culture). This disease is characterized by the yellowing or mottling of the entire leaf; followed by premature defoliation, die-back of twigs, decay of feeder rootlets and lateral roots; and followed by, ultimately, the death of the entire plant.
There is no cure for citrus greening disease, other than attempting heat therapy. Here, sick trees are wrapped with a material that harnesses the sun’s heat and raises the temperature around the trees to 128 degrees. This aside, the main remedies are preventative: to stop the disease from spreading from one infected plant to another. Another idea being mooted, National Geographic reports, is genetic engineering.
In June 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) allocated $31.5 million to expand research combating citrus greening disease, such is the ecological impact and potential to wipe out Florida's oranges. This measure has been followed up by a Federal government interventionist program whereby, as Tri-City Herald Reports, the USDA will provide government payments to help remove and replace dying trees.
In further news of concern, The Fresno Bee reports that the infection has now been spotted in California, with some infected trees being seen in the Hacienda Heights area of Los Angeles County.
More about Florida, Oranges, Citrus greening, Huanglongbing, yellow dragon disease
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