What is citrus greening, and why is it such a threat to America's organic growers? Find out what's being done to save organic citrus, and how you can help.
“If we do not address citrus greening now, America’s organic citrus growers will be unable to fight this deadly disease without resorting to dangerous toxic pesticides or genetic modification, and it may mark the end of organic citrus production in this country and on our table.”
—Dr. Jessica Shade, Director of Research Programs at The Organic Center
Citrus greening, also known as Huanglongbing (HLB) or yellow dragon disease, causes citrus trees to produce fruit that is green, bitter, and misshapen—in other words, not fit for sale. The disease has already destroyed millions of acres of citrus crops throughout the United States, Asia, Africa, and South America. In fact, it’s estimated that 99% of the citrus orchards in Florida (our nation’s largest citrus producer) have been infected. Now the disease has cropped up in California, the leading producer of organic citrus in the country.
What causes citrus greening?
An insect called the Asian citrus psyllid, which is no bigger than the head of a pin, is the disease carrier. The psyllid injects a bacterium into the tree that stops the flow of nutrients and minerals between the roots, leaves, and branches.
Citrus greening disease can kill a tree within just a few years.
What's being done to stop it?
Plenty, on the non-organic side of things. Aggressive synthetic pesticide sprays have been proposed as a mandatory control method in California, but until now, no attempt has been made to identify organic alternatives to ward off the disease.
The Organic Center launches multi-year study, and you can help
To answer the threat of citrus greening without resorting to pesticides, toxic chemicals, or GMOs, The Organic Center—an independent non-profit organization that operates under the administration of the Organic Trade Association—has kicked off a major study that aims to solve the problem organically.
The Organic Center needs to raise $310,000 to conduct the three-year research project, which will be performed with the help of University of Florida entomologist Michael Rogers and Ben McLean, vice president and director of research for Uncle Matt's Organic.
McLean has already been using a four-pronged organic approach to combat citrus greening for over a year, with positive results. He is confident that with additional research, the lessons learned from his orchard can help organic growers around the nation keep citrus greening under control.
The UNFI Foundation has provided The Organic Center with a $45,000 grant to lay the foundation for the fundraising drive. You can donate to the research project by visiting http://www.rkthb.co/44990.