Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Orange Juice May Be More Expensive Next Year
The California drought has been front page news for many months and that means reduced orange production for many California growers.
With reduced production the supply at your grocery store will be affected and prices may be higher.
In Florida they are trying many types of cures for the bacterial disease (Greening or the Chines name Huanglongbing) that incubates in the tree's roots, then moves back up the trunk in full force, causing nutrient flows to seize up. Leaves turn yellow, and the oranges, deprived of sugars from the leaves, remain green, sour, and hard. Many simply drop before harvest, with brown necrotic flesh ringing the failed stems.
In a few select Florida orchards, there are now trees that, thanks to innovative technology, can fight the greening tide. These trees have the potential to keep Florida orange juice on your breakfast table, provided you are willing to drink orange juice that have been genetically modified to contain genes from Spinacia oleracea (spinach).
The citrus industry, slow to prevent the greening disease, has partially redirected its advertising budget and invested heavily in research, reportedly $90 million so far. Southern Gardens Citrus, one of the largest growers, supports genetic modification. The federal government, too, has contributed, with this year's farm bill directing $125 million for research toward the fight against citrus greening scourge.
Growers and scientists desperate for ways to sustain existing trees have already adopted temporary measures, targeted applications of antibiotic, for instance, or of fertilizer and water to reduced roots.
Researchers have found that heating trees inside plastic tents can prolong the orange tree’s lifespan by killing some of the bacteria; in California, researchers are releasing parasitic wasps from Pakistan that attack Asian citrus psyllids.
And close to commercialization, so close that the scientist behind them, can't talk specifics anymore, are chemical tree coatings that target the specific biology of the psyllid.
One great remaining question is whether consumers will drink juice from genetically modified oranges. While GMO crops are grown on nearly half of the United States' farmland, and they supply cornmeal, oils, and sugars that tens of millions of Americans eat daily, there has never been a case quite like orange juice.
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Porterville, CA 93257