Citrus greening also known as Huanglonbing (HLB) or yellow dragon disease was first discovered in Florida in 1998. Although not proven, the disease is believed to have originated in China in the 1900s. Infected trees have also been detected and have harmed citrus groves in Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, California, and Brazil. The bacteria is said to spread quickly, and could potentially cause a state-wide crisis in the state of Florida – the largest citrus producer in the U.S.
The Florida department of agriculture and consumer services is analyzing the pathogens to define the extent of the problem.
Scientists from the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are also studying the causes and possible treatment for the disease. The ARS has determined that the impact of the disease could be devastating to citrus growers and consumers, since the fruit juice turns bitter and the fruit is non-edible when infected.
Even though the disease itself is not harmful to humans, the financial impact of infected trees could essentially, have devastating effects, and cause much damage to citrus growers and the economy of the state.
Florida experienced a similar crisis during the 1990s, when citrus canker infected trees throughout the state, and it took almost ten years to eradicate. Following the canker crisis, the state passed legislation, which enables the removal of all infected trees, including those in orchards, residential areas in major cities and the suburbs.
Independent researchers have developed products that treat infectious diseases in citrus trees. Groveguard and Sunbelt Citrus are companies that have treated trees and provided guidance and expert advice to growers and individual tree owners.