We were driving on the Expressway the other day and we heard on the radio that the Florida orange crop will be at its lowest output since the 1940s. “What? The 1940s?!?” we thought to ourselves.
The point of the news report was that orange juice prices will be higher this coming winter because of the low crop output. But what the report didn’t explain was why the crop will be so low.
We assumed that there must have been a frost or some other weather-related event, or perhaps there was a supply chain or labor shortage issue, as the cause for the shortfall.
But when we looked into it, we discovered that the Florida orange crop has been declining steadily for the past 20 years or so.
And the reason for the decline is something far more insidious than the weather or COVID. According to Inside Climate News, a respected environmental news web-site, the culprit is an invasive insect: “The Asian citrus psyllid fills its stomach by feeding on the leaves and stems of citrus trees. The tiny brown insects infect the trees with bacteria that cause citrus greening, a disease that makes the fruits inedible. Natives to Asia, the citrus psyllids were first found in the United States in Florida in 1998.”
Invasive species have been causing all kinds of damage in our country and around the world for many years. The zebra mussel (which came from Russia) and th Asian carp have wreaked costly damage in the past few decades. However, their impact is largely unseen by the American public.
But the Asian citrus psyllid’s damage strikes home for all of us. Oranges and other citrus fruits are a staple food item in every American household. So now, amidst our winter of discontent, there is one more thing to add to the list — the Asian citrus psyllid.