Citrus greening concerns: Florida citrus growers hope for better year

88 million spent to fight greening

FORT PIERCE, Fla. - At Al's Family Farms, bushels of oranges that have been in cold storage are getting set to be juiced.  It was a tough growing season last year for owner Jeff Schorner.

"You know it's all about boxes per acre. We need to get 2 or 3 boxes to the tree but if it drops down to 1 1/2, 1 we're losing money," said Schorner.

Schorner, and many other growers, once again had to face citrus greening.  An insect called the Asian citrus psyllid is the culprit.  It spreads a bacteria that slowly kills the tree by preventing the roots from transferring nutrients from the ground to the leaves.

"Growers have now put 88 million dollars of their own money into this fight," said Doug Bourinque, the Executive Vice President with the Indian River Citrus League.

There's no cure for citrus greening.  Last year, the overall citrus crop in Florida was down 10-percent.

But just down the road from Al's Family Farm, scientists are doing their part to try and keep citrus greening from  becoming a bigger menace.

In a lab at the USDA Horticultural Research Lab, Dr. John Ramos is using an anti-microbial to try and stave off greening on a small tree.

"Developing a strategy and methods for treatment for already sick plants," said Dr. Ramos.

The lab Tuesday hosted Congressman Patrick Murphy and others so Washington can get a taste of the importance of this research, to keep a Florida staple on the shelves for years to come.

"Then we'll grow a stronger tree that's resistant to it or totally immune to the citrus greening," said Jeff Schorner with Al's Family Farms.

Schorner says so far the nutrients he's been applying to some of his trees is paying off at one of his favorite groves in Vero Beach that he thought might be lost to the disease.  First harvests are just around the corner.

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