Your Glass of Orange Juice is at Risk

Sep 10, 2017

Consumed in over 65% of households across America and in nearly 2/3 of limited-service restaurants, orange juice is a breakfast staple and has been for nearly half a century. Despite the historical and breakfast table significance of this beverage, orange juice sales have been decreasing significantly over the past ten years. 2016 brought a 32 year-low of only 500,000 metric tons of orange juice- compared to an average of 1,000,000 tons in previous years.

These low rates of orange juice consumption aren’t simply due to a change in taste buds but rather, the drop in production of orange juice as the result of a bacterial disease that is threatening to destroy the citrus industry.

Huanglongbing (HLB) also known as Citrus Greening has infected nearly 70% of Florida’s Citrus Trees and the result of this disease is a drop in the citrus crop that has been passed onto the orange juice industry in the form of high prices and low yields.

Citrus Greening was first reported in China in the early 1900’s and since has become the most serious citrus plant disease in the world devastating millions of acres of citrus in the US and abroad. This bacterial disease is spread by an insect called the Psyllid. Once a tree is infected, the disease spreads to the Phloem (the tree’s main artery) causing severe issues with nutrient uptake. The result is trees starve to death and citrus fruits drop prematurely and rot. The worst part: once a tree is infected, there is no cure.

Citrus Greening or HLB as many refer to it was brought to the United States and first confirmed in Florida in 2005, in Miami-Dade County and it spread rapidly throughout the citrus groves that span across Florida.

With nearly 70% of trees affected in Florida and the disease rapidly spreading across the country (a recent case just reported HLB in California), there is a race for better diagnostic testing as well as more resistant plants and better treatment.

What can you do to help? Keep drinking OJ for calcium and a bright, orange wake-up call, and in the meantime, we’ll be developing the best citrus diagnostics to keep that glass of orange juice on your breakfast table.

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