The death knell for Florida citrus - FOX 13 News

The death knell for Florida citrus

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LAKELAND (FOX 13) -

The forecasts are pretty dark. Certain experts say the citrus industry in Florida will be belly up in 20 years if something isn't done.

Others don't even give it that much time. No matter which stakeholder you talk to, they agree on one thing. Time is running out to get citrus greening under control.

"I have always been an optimist, but it is getting to be more difficult to be optimistic," Ellis Hunt, Jr., of Hunt Brothers Cooperative told FOX 13.

Hunt says the industry is in danger of being wiped out, with smaller growers falling by the wayside in the next few years.

"I would think it would be half of what it is today in five years if something doesn't develop rapidly to save those infected trees," Hunt said.

Greening makes the fruit bitter and fall off the tree. It is caused by a bacteria spread by a bug known as a psyllid.

Since greening popped up in the state seven years ago, growers have donated $70 million to research, but no one has come up with a silver bullet yet.

Washington is sending another $20 million this way, possibly more if the Farm Bill passes.

No one has found a solution, but there was a breakthrough recently. A University of Florida professor figured out the genetic sequence of the greening bacteria.

"With having that make up now, that key to the mystery, if you will, there are all kinds of things that researcher can do to try and use that to our advantage," said Mike Sparks, CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual, a growers group.

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