Quantcast
Food
Alf Ribeiro / Shutterstock

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.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Popular
Sit-in at Rep. Hoyer's office. Sunrise Movement

1,000+ Youth Activists Storm Capitol to Demand Green New Deal

More than 1,000 climate activists with the youth-led Sunrise Movement stormed the U.S. Capitol in Washington and participated in sit-ins at Democratic leaders' offices on Monday.

The protesters demanded Reps. Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and Jim McGovern support Rep-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's proposal of a "select committee" for a Green New Deal before the winter recess.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
The Stikine River runs through Wrangell, Alaska. Mining operations nearby threaten to poison fish in the Stikine watershed and destroy the traditions and livelihoods of Southeast Alaskan Tribes. Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Canada as Ugly Neighbor: Mines in BC Would Devastate Alaskan Tribes

By Ramin Pejan

Mining operations in Canada are threatening to destroy the way of life of Southeast Alaskan Tribes who were never consulted about the mines by the governments of Canada or British Columbia.

Keep reading... Show less
Business
Deforestation on peatland for palm oil plantation in Borneo, Indonesia. glennhurowitz / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

World's Largest Palm Oil Trader Ramps Up Zero-Deforestation Efforts

The world's largest palm oil trader released plans on Monday to increase its efforts to eliminate deforestation from its supply chain.

Wilmar International, which supplies 40 percent of the world's palm oil, has teamed up with the sustainability consultancy Aidenvironment Asia to develop a comprehensive mapping database to better monitor the company's palm oil supplier group.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
The Elkhorn Slough Reserve is one of California's few remaining coastal wetlands. Edmund Lowe Photography / Moment / Getty Images

New EPA Rule Would Sabotage Clean Water Act

By Jake Johnson

In a move environmentalists are warning will seriously endanger drinking water and wildlife nationwide, President Donald Trump's U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is reportedly gearing up to hand yet another gift to big polluters by drastically curtailing the number of waterways and wetlands protected under the Clean Water Act.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
James Braund / Getty Images

40 Acres of Farm Land in America Is Lost to Development Every Hour

By Brian Barth

Picture bulldozers plowing up pastures and cornfields to put in subdivisions and strip malls. Add to this picture the fact that the average age of the American farmer is nearly 60—it's often retiring farmers that sell to real estate developers. They can afford to pay much more for property than aspiring young farmers.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy

60,000 Liters of Oil Spills From Pipeline Into Brazilian Bay

About 60,000 liters (15,850 gallons) of oil spilled from a pipeline into the Estrela River and spread to Rio de Janeiro's famed Guanabara Bay over the weekend, according to Reuters and local reports.

The pipeline is owned by Transpetro, the largest oil and gas transportation company in Brazil, and a subsidiary of Petroleo Brasileiro (commonly known as Petrobras). Transpetro claims the leak resulted from an attempted robbery.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
alvarez / E+ / Getty Images

Holiday Shoppers, the Planet Needs You to Take It Easy With Next-Day Shipping

By Jeff Turrentine

Back in 1966, the editors of Time indulged in a long-honored magazine tradition and published an essay in which experts made predictions about the future—in this case, the year 2000. By then, these experts prognosticated, a typical shopper "should be able to switch on to the local supermarket on the video phone, examine grapefruit and price them, all without stirring from her living room." But even so, they predicted, "remote shopping, while entirely feasible, will flop." Why? Because shoppers "like to get out of the house, like to handle the merchandise, like to be able to change their minds."

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
The Russia pavilion at the COP24 conference in Katowice, Poland. Beata Zawrzel / NurPhoto via Getty Images

COP24: U.S. Joins Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait in Blocking Crucial Climate Report

The U.S. has thrown its hat in the ring with three other fossil-fuel friendly nations to block the COP24 talks from "welcoming" the landmark Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that warned that we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 45 percent of 2010 levels by 2030 in order to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, BBC News reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!