Citrus Faces the Green Reaper
by Daphne Thompson, on Aug 26, 2015 5:22:00 PM
An alarming threat is causing fear among citrus growers in the US. If orange juice is a staple of your morning breakfast, you’ll want to read about this frightening new trend.
Citrus greening, or Huanglongbing (HLB), is leading to huge risks for the continuation of citrus production in the United States. The disease carrier is the tiny invasive species known as the the Asian Citrus Psyllid. Citrus greening disease or HLB is now found in several states in the US including California and Florida. Despite massive investment by the scientific community, a true cure has not been found. At present, only certain insecticides help manage the population.
CNN interviewed Matt McLean, a 3rd generation citrus grower in Clermont, Florida, who stated “we are seeing the death of an industry in front of our eyes.” The infection rate is reaching 100% in Florida with the disease showing no signs of stopping. What makes matters worse is that citrus greening has already cost 7.8 billion dollars in damages during the past 8 years in Florida.
As a concerned orange juice enthusiast and scientist, I began to look into how psyllid outbreaks occur. According to a University of Florida pest manual, the Asian Citrus Psyllid reproduction capabilities are directly related to temperature and the presence of new flush in citrus trees. Temperatures optimal for reproduction exist when the high temperature is between 77-86 degrees while anything above 90 results in a mass shortening of lifespans for the females. Anything below 60 degrees results in a reduction of egg development to 2 per day resulting in a limited spread. Flushing of new trees be can modeled by Growing Degree Days, which are calculated upon temperature as well.
I found that weather is the key component to forecasting when Asian Citrus Psyllid will be reproducing and spreading to citrus groves. Using WDT’s Ag Weather API, we can provide the meteorological forecast conditions that are ideal for Asian Citrus Psyllid reproduction and for citrus grove growth stages using GDD. We can feed our high resolution weather information into your pest, growth, and disease models to help catch this disease before it occurs.
Photograph by David Hall - USDA ARS Image Gallery Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Quadell using CommonsHelper. This image was released by the Agricultural Research Service, the research agency of the United States Department of Agriculture, with the ID d595-1