Expert Report

Strategic Planning for the Florida Citrus Industry: Addressing Citrus Greening (2010)

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Among the many citrus diseases to have invaded Florida, citrus greening disease presents the greatest threat to Florida's $9.3 billion citrus industry. Citrus greening, also known as huanglongbing or HLB, reduces yield and compromises the flavor, color, and size of citrus fruit before eventually killing the citrus tree. Caused by an insect-spread bacterial infection, citrus greening infects every type of citrus and is now present in all 34 Floridian citrus producing counties.

At the request of the Florida Department of Citrus, the National Research Council convened a committee to develop a strategic plan for addressing citrus greening disease. The committee examined the current citrus disease situation in Florida and the status of public and private efforts to address citrus greening, as well as the capacity of the industry to mobilize a scientifically based response to disease threats. The report found that in the near-term a successful citrus greening response will focus on earlier detection of diseased trees so that these sources of new infections can be removed more quickly, and on new methods to control the insects that carry the bacteria.

Key Messages

  • Biomarkers that could serve as indicators of infection with citrus greening disease should be identified to allow the early removal of infected trees
  • Citrus Health Management Areas should be established to coordinate the control of psyllid populations and the removal of infected trees in local areas
  • Currently, there is no cure for citrus greening disease, but the best treatments are to remove infected trees, keep populations of Asian citrus psyllids as low as possible, and grow replacement trees in insect-proof nurseries
  • In the long term, research is needed to develop new strategies for fighting citrus greening disease, such as the use of genetic engineering to develop citrus trees that are resistant to the disease
  • New research and management techniques should be investigated to maximize insecticide effectiveness