Citrus Diseases Costing Billions for Florida Citrus Farmers

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Marianna- 90% of all orange juice consumed in the United States is produced in Florida. But, diseases called Citrus Canker and Greening could soon change that. The bacterial infections have been destroying the citrus crop by the masses.

"When you have a state that's as effected as Florida is right now with both of these diseases- and its effecting the amount of fruit and the quality of fruit- it's been a multi-billion dollar hit to the citrus industry over the last several years annually," said Jackson County Horticulture Extension Agent, Rob Trawick.

He explained how easily the diseases spread and how difficult they are to control.

"Greening is vectored by an insect," he said. "So, if you have an insect that feeds on an infected tree and moves over and bites on a tree that's not infected it's going to pass that pathogen on. Where as canker is vectored not by an insect but by wind and rain events, usually weather type systems. A lot of people don't realize how wide spread and how far these diseases can be spread."

After an outbreak was discovered in Santa Rosa County this season, Trawick told us commercial growers in Jackson County haven't taken the threat lightly.

"We have a grower here in the county- Jackson County, who- he's very, very stringent on making sure you spray and clean your hands before you even touch the trees."

But home growers, where all of the current identified cases in Santa Rosa County were discovered, may be less aware of the risks.

"Homeowners are a lot less likely to go out there and just rip a tree out of their yard that they've come to really know, love and enjoy. But, the truth of the matter is, once it does have citrus canker, it needs to be removed and destroyed," Trawick said.

He told us anyone who suspected a citrus tree may be diseased needed to contact their local agriculture agent immediately.