Thursday, December 30, 2010

Citrus Greening Hope

One of the nice things about the holidays is, you get to take time off from work, catch up on a few things and relax. Okay, strike the last part, who really gets to relax during the holidays?
I have been able to catch up on a few things though, namely a little bit of my reading. The stack of magazines and books I currently have would be a speed readers nightmare.
A couple of articles really grabbed my attention and they both pertained to Citrus Greening disease.
I was talking to somebody today from here in Charleston County (we are under quarantine for Greening) and she did not have any idea about it. I am doing a Citrus lecture for her garden club on the 11th, I think I am going to scare some of these folks.
Just to give some of you that may not know what Citrus Greening is, here is a Readers Digest version.
Huanglongbing (pronounced Hung-Long-Bing) or Yellow Dragon Disease is one of the most serious Citrus diseases. It is a bacterial disease that attacks the vascular system. Once infected, the tree will produce inedible bitter fruit, the fruit will not be able to ripen and the tree will ultimately die in a few years. There is currently no cure for the disease.
It is spread by a tiny insect known as the Asian Citrus Psyllid.
This is their feeding posture. 45 degrees to the stem. The adults are 3 to 4 mm (or 0.15748031496 inches) long with a mottled brown body. They are really very small. It only takes an infected Psyllid about 15 minutes to infect a tree.
It can also be transmitted by grafting.
The diseased leaves look like this.
This disease can be tricky to detect because it mimics many nutritional deficiencies. On the above picture, notice the non-mirrored yellowing. If this was nutritional the two sides of the leaves would be identical.
Like I said, this is an EXTREMELY short version of what Greening disease is. To find out if you are under quarantine here in the United States go to this link HERE It will tell you all you need to know.
Okay, that was your Citrus Greening mini lecture. I mentioned the two articles that grabbed my attention. The first one dealt with feeding the crap out of Greening infected trees to rejuvenate them. I guess the old cliche "Starve a cold and feed a fever" would be a good analogy here. Maury Boyd, a Citrus producer near Immokalee, Florida has successfully been applying a cocktail of nutrients to his ravaged trees. I won't go into the long list of what he is applying, but it is done three times a year just after each new flush of growth.
There is still many tests being performed on this treatment. The article goes on to say that Mr. Boyd is pleased with the overall health of his grove, he would have plowed them under before trying this method, and the fruit yields have met or exceeded industry average. Fruit quality has also improved.
I am not telling you to go out and start pouring all kinds of fertilizers on your trees, like I said, there is still MUCH research to do here.
The other article I mentioned will undoubtedly cause controversy. The title is "Genetic Engineering Tackles Citrus Greening". There was a lot of scientific mumbo jumbo, but I got the gist of it. Basically, to save the 9.3 billion dollar annual economic benefit to Florida, there may have to be some playing around with the genes of Citrus. The article also states that groups that are opposed to genetically modified foods of any kind may try to dissuade the public from turning to genetically engineered Orange Juice. It's not like they are trying to create a Frankenstein Orange, they have discovered that there are some genes in Spinach that may provide some resistance. They don't have a complete handle on all this yet, but it is in research. I, for one, have no problem with Genetically Modified Food or GMO's, though I am not sure if my Orange Juice had the aftertaste of Spinach, it would be all that great! Ha-Ha
This has been a VERY brief overview of what these articles said, both were 3+ pages long. I just wanted to show you that there is research going on to fix this horrible disease to Citrus. I remember just a couple of years ago there was a notion going around Florida that if something wasn't done soon the whole Citrus industry could be wiped out in 5-10 years! A very sobering thought.
One last thing I would like to mention. I know they have a huge stake in the Orange Juice industry, but if their OJ sales stopped they would not go bankrupt. I would like to THANK Coca-Cola for their 1.5 million dollar donation to research for finding a cure for HLB (Huanglongbing). Hopefully someday they will find one!
Happy Growing!

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