A new report by scientists advising the federal government finds no breakthrough discovery for managing citrus greening, a chronic disease killing Florida’s citrus industry. This should be a wake-up call to bring greater resources to the fight.
The report Tuesday by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine is not entirely surprising; greening is spread by a tiny invasive bug, and growers have used a variety of stopgap techniques to work around the destruction, even as state and federal governments and the industry have spent tens of millions to fight the disease.
It’s still not been enough. The report finds major barriers still exist, from the inability to culture bacteria in the lab to the lack of advanced diagnostics to detect the disease early. It’s an acknowledgement that limiting the spread of greening — much less curing it — will require much more resources and effort.
The recent federal spending bill included $67 million in total funding for greening research, which will help to study and address the problem. But there still is a big gap in the nation’s scientific capabilities. Greening has caused a 70 percent drop in Florida’s annual citrus take while tripling the cost of production. Losses from 2007 to 2014 total $2.9 billion. Citrus is a valuable, iconic industry in Florida, and the state needs to redouble its focus on protecting this vital sector. The federal government also needs to remain a partner. Eradicating or even controlling this disease will require a united and sustained campaign.