5 things to know about the imperiled Florida orange
1. Florida historians say citrus trees were brought to the peninsula in the mid-1500s by Spanish explorers and first planted along the state's northeast coast, near St. Augustine. Oranges and grapefruits have been farmed commercially since the 1800s. By the mid-20th century, an aggressive marketing campaign led Americans to associate the state's abundant sunshine with orange juice.
2. Walt Disney's parents once owned a citrus grove.
3. Famous people have long promoted Florida OJ. Bing Crosby crooned about Minute Maid's "freshly frozen bright sunshine" in 1948. This year, the Florida Department of Citrus signed FOX Sports reporter Erin Andrews as a spokeswoman.
4. In 1965, orange groves covered 695,824 acres. Because of development, hurricane damage and now greening, that number has diminished to 464,918 acres. There are, however, more orange trees planted in the state than a half-century ago: 61,638 trees compared to 53,893.
5. The spread of greening coincides with an increase in foreign competition and a decrease in U.S. juice consumption. Since the 1950s, Florida orange juice has been touted as a "powerhouse of vitamin C," as one commercial put it. But in recent years, nutritionists have criticized orange juice, saying it is filled with sugar and unnecessary carbohydrates. Citrus experts believe concern over sugar content is a big reason why retail orange juice sales in the U.S. have declined almost 37 percent in the 12 citrus seasons through 2012-13.