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Scientists make recommendations on citrus greening

MANATEE — In virtually every Florida county where oranges are grown, the sinister and so-far-incurable citrus greening disease has appeared.

Tuesday, the National Research Council of the National Academies released its recommendations to Florida citrus growers on how to combat the disease, also known as Huanglongbing, or HLB.

Some recommendations are being implemented to avoid devastation of an entire industry, including the creation of the Citrus Research Disease Foundation, a disease research coordinating body, according to a press release from the Florida Department of Citrus.

Also recommended was the creation of “Citrus Health Management Areas,” a step that will require a high-level of grower cooperation.

The disease is spread by bacterium, and once a tree is infected, the fruit becomes inedible and the tree dies.

Most of the citrus grown in Manatee County is sold to juice makers, like Tropicana.

Mac Carraway, president of SMR Farms, which has 1,270 acres of citrus, called greening a potentially more dangerous citrus disease than canker. Greening is the “clear and present danger,” Carraway said.

“Inevitably, it will take its toll,” Carraway said.

State maps of the disease show heavy concentrations of greening in southeast Florida and southwest Florida, south of Manatee County.

“It requires an effort on our part to manage the vector,” Carraway said.

The Florida Department of Citrus has reallocated almost $20 million to date on research projects for greening and other diseases that threaten the future of the citrus industry, said Ken Keck, the department’s executive director, in the press release. The report contains 23 recommendations for battling greening.

“Growers can take heart in the report’s conclusion, which states, ‘However deficient is our current arsenal for fighting HLB, the potential for progress against this disease remains distinctly hopeful,’” Keck said.

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