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Tulare County Orange Trees Could Be The Answer For Citrus Industry Problems

Ezra David Romero
Valley Public Radio
Citrus Psyllid. Stock Photo.

A research center near Visalia is in the process of breeding a citrus tree resistant to a disease that has the industry on edge. FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports.


There are three trees that grow inedible fruit at the Lindcove Research and Extension Center east of Visalia that scientists hope to turn into a game changer for the citrus industry. The trees are all bred with an orange variety thought to be resistant to huanglongbing. It’s a disease that’s cut citrus production in half in Florida says the center's director Beth Grafton-Cardwell. She says around 40 citrus trees in Southern California are infected with the disease.


“So what they’ve got to do is cross this with some edible varieties and eventually create something that has the gene for resistance, but also the genes for good fruit," Grafton-Cardwell says.


She says if the trials work it’ll mean the California citrus industry would avoid the devastating effects places like Florida have felt.


“Right now 100 percent of orchards in Florida have some level of the disease and their production has gone way, way down," says Grafton-Cardwell. "We have dozens of varieties around the state so there’s a lot of work to do.”


There are other projects taking place at the site including a study looking at 50 citrus varieties that seem to be surviving the outbreak in Florida.


Ezra David Romero is an award-winning radio reporter and producer. His stories have run on Morning Edition, Morning Edition Saturday, Morning Edition Sunday, All Things Considered, Here & Now, The Salt, Latino USA, KQED, KALW, Harvest Public Radio, etc.
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