Plagued by citrus greening disease, US citrus production down more than 50% since mid-1990s

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The United States remains one of the world’s top citrus-producing nations, trailing only Brazil and China in annual production. However, total production has fallen more than 50 percent since it hit record levels in the mid-1990s, and the primary reason for that decline is the severe damage that the Florida citrus industry has suffered in the last few decades from a bacterial disease known as citrus greening.

Citrus greening is thought to have originated in China about 100 years ago, where it is known as yellow dragon disease (or Huang Long Bing (HLB) in Chinese). It is transmitted by two species of psyllid insects (small winged insects also known as flying plant lice).

Related article:  Podcast: Could a benign virus save Florida's devastated orange industry from citrus greening disease?

Research is underway at universities in Florida and California to develop root-stock for citrus species that are more resistant to the disease. Some progress is being made on this front, but it could cost farmers hundreds of thousands of dollars to destroy their existing trees and purchase and plant new HLB-tolerant trees on their operations.

Research to develop truly resistant strains through use of genetic engineering or gene editing is also being pursued at the Universities of Florida, Connecticut, and California-Riverside.

Read full, original article: US Citrus Industry Faces Dire Straits

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