oranges

CAROL VANHOOK / CREATIVE COMMONS VIA FLICKR

The Florida citrus industry has experienced its worst harvest season since World War II as it continues to recover from Hurricane Irma.   

Orange production is off more than 34 percent from the last growing season, according to the News Service of Florida, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's latest forecast numbers show no improvement in that figure over the last month. 

In Florida, oranges are so important that they're on the state's license plates. But after 11 years of fighting a debilitating disease, Florida's citrus industry is in a sad state. The disease, called citrus greening, is caused by a bacterium that constricts a tree's vascular system, shriveling fruit and eventually killing the tree. The bacterium is spread by a tiny insect called a psyllid.

Florida's orange crop this season is 16 percent smaller than last season.

The final estimate released Tuesday showed that Florida produced 81.5 million boxes of oranges during the 2015-2016 growing season.

The cost of fighting a disease that’s ravaging Florida’s citrus industry is triggering growers to abandon their groves. Citrus greening causes orange trees to decline and die within a few years. And there’s no cure right now.  These “grove graveyards” become breeding grounds for the disease.

Putnam: Citrus Industry 'In A Fight For Its Life'

Oct 12, 2015

State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam wants another $8.5 million next year to help fight a deadly citrus disease, as Florida's orange crop was forecast Friday to hit a 52-year low in the upcoming season.

Oranges Prevail In Florida Despite Greening

Oct 13, 2014
Creative Commons via Flickr / Carol VanHook (https://flic.kr/p/jyE2Sb)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has released its latest citrus projections for the season, with orange production up for the first time in the past three years. The state will produce an estimated 108 million boxes of oranges, which is a three percent increase from last year’s 104.6 million boxes.

It's not been a good year for Florida's citrus industry. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that, for the second year running, the orange crop is expected to be almost 10 percent lower than the previous year.

The culprit is citrus greening, a disease that has devastated Florida's oranges and grapefruits, and has now begun to spread in Texas and California.