The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Scientists Have No Idea How to Fight Citrus Greening
By Dan Nosowitz
Since 2012, when it was first found in California and Texas, scientists have been searching for a solution to a "citrus greening," a devastating disease affecting citrus trees.
Citrus greening, known as huánglóngbìng in China (shortened to HLB in America), where it's been present for decades, is an intensely destructive disease, sneakily killing branches, causing bitter, unsellable fruit and stunting growth. Unfortunately, a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine says that a solution is not coming anytime soon.
Florida, which is responsible for most of the juice oranges produced in the U.S., is being wrecked by citrus greening. It's estimated that the disease has caused $2.9 billion in damages between 2007 and 2014 (it was first discovered in Florida in 2005), and it's thought to be a key contributor to the decline of citrus acres in the state.
As a result, the Citrus Research and Development Foundation (CRDF), an industry group, has poured about $100 million into attempting to solve this problem. Citrus greening is caused by a bacteria that's spread by the Asian citrus psyllid, a tiny, brown, moth-like insect that's actually a pretty annoying pest in its own right. But it's most destructive as a vector for the bacteria that causes citrus greening.
The CRDF asked the Academies to take a look at their research and attempt to figure out any possible solution. In response, this week, the Academies released a study calling a silver bullet "unlikely." From the study's release: "Significant barriers to progress toward an HLB solution still exist, among them the inability to culture the bacteria in the laboratory, the lack of advanced diagnostics for early disease detection, and the absence of standardized research methodology that would improve the comparability of results across studies."
The report doesn't rule out the possibility of long-term solutions, including some involving genes taken from spinach, but notes that short-term solutions, especially preventative measures, might be the most effective for now.
On that note, short-term solutions for citrus greening have actually been known for awhile. The Florida Department of Citrus recommends better nutrition for the trees themselves; apparently well-fed citrus trees are more able to produce good fruit when hit by citrus greening. The University of Florida suggests more careful sourcing of trees in the first place, and the outright removal of any infected trees. There's also this guide to antibacterial product use; possible products include streptomycin (well-understood, though highly toxic to algae) and oxytetracycline (which the EPA says is basically fine). But none of these are great solutions; they're kind of all just best practices for growing citrus, and the decline in productivity and the spread of citrus greening suggests that these preventative practices are not especially effective solutions.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Wolves and Jaguars Are Already Threatened by Border Razor Wire As Trump Vetoes Bid to Block Emergency Wall Funding
President Donald Trump issued the first veto of his presidency Friday, overturning Congress' vote to block his national emergency declaration to fund a border wall that environmental advocates say would put 93 endangered species at risk. However, the president's decision came the same day as an in-depth report from UPI revealing how razor wire placed at the border in the last four months already threatens wildlife.
Yet another whale has died after ingesting plastic bags. A young male Cuvier's beaked whale was found washed up in Mabini, Compostela Valley in the Philippines Friday, CNN reported. When scientists from the D' Bone Collector Museum in Davao investigated the dead whale, they found it had died of "dehydration and starvation" after swallowing plastic bags―40 kilograms (approximately 88 pounds) worth of them!
By Joe Sandler Clarke
"Don't expect us to continue buying European products," Malaysia's former plantations minister Mah Siew Keong told reporters in January last year. His comments came just after he had accused the EU of "practising a form of crop apartheid."
A few months later Luhut Pandjaitan, an Indonesian government minister close to President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo, warned his country would retaliate if it was "cornered" by the EU.
By Luis Torres
For some people who live along the U.S.-Mexico border, President Trump's attempt to declare a national emergency and extend the border wall is worse than a wasteful, unconstitutional stunt. It's an attack on their way of life that threatens to desecrate their loved ones' graves.
At least 150 people have died in a cyclone that devastated parts of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi over the weekend, The Associated Press reported Sunday. Cyclone Idai has affected more than 1.5 million people since it hit Mozambique's port city of Beira late Thursday, then traveled west to Zimbabwe and Malawi. Hundreds are still missing and tens of thousands are without access to roads or telephones.
"I think this is the biggest natural disaster Mozambique has ever faced. Everything is destroyed. Our priority now is to save human lives," Mozambique's Environment Minister Celso Correia said, as AFP reported.