Incurable plague wiping out Florida's orange crops

(WTSP)-- One of Florida's biggest industries will be wiped out, obliterated,within five years. One of our senators said that will happen if we don'tcome up with a cure for a disease that's hammering our state's citruscrops.

The disease is called "citrus greening" and it could be devastating.

Florida's orange groves translate into 76,000 jobs, $9 billion a yearfor the state's economy, and our identity around the world. That's allin jeopardy.

Growers are looking at a statewide disaster caused by a bug smaller than a gnat. It'sthe Asian Citrus Psyllid, and it showed up in Florida about ten years ago.

As it goes from tree to tree, itspreads a tiny bacteria. The bacteria doesn't hurt humans. But it does cause fruit to fall early from trees, shaped all wrong, and tasting bitter.

The only early sign growers get that they've been hit bycitrus greening is leaves that are blotchy and curled. But there's nothing they can do -- there's no cure.

AUniversity of Florida study found Florida has already lost billions from its economy as the plague has taken hold.

In its session that just ended, the Florida Legislature approved $8million to research a cure. U.S. Senator Bill Nelson has helped line up$11 million in federal money.

He said the disease will destroy the citrus industry and the growers' way of life before 2020 if we don't find a cure.

Anything that hurts citrus hurts us especially hard here in the TampaBay area. About half of Florida's counties grow citrus and Polkgenerally leads them all.

Plus, Tropicana is based here in the Bay area, in Bradenton, and it's the world's number one buyer of Florida oranges.


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