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Food Bullying Podcast

Mar 4, 2024

Rich in vitamin C and flavonoids, many citrus varieties have earned their place on our breakfast tables, squeezed into our water (and cocktails), and in our favorite American recipes.  There is both art and science in growing citrus that is in demand as part of our nutrition. Citrus farmers continually met consumer demand for new flavors (think blood oranges), increased eye appeal (Cara Caras come to mind), and ease of use (seedless lemons). 

Amid so much innovation, the unfortunate reality is that citrus is at risk. In this episode of the Food Bullying podcast, Casey Creamer, president of California Citrus Mutual, explains how citrus greening. The disease (also known as Huanglongbing), is a significant concern for the three central citrus-producing states: California, Florida, and Texas.

Casey discusses the efforts being made in California to identify and remove infected trees to prevent the disease from spreading. One of the key steps is controlling the Asian citrus psyllid, the insect that transmits the disease. The state has a surveillance and trapping program to identify the presence of the psyllid and take proactive measures to contain it. Infected trees are immediately removed to eliminate the disease reservoir. California is also advocating for a national citrus breeding program to develop resistant varieties.

 He also notes that Florida faces more challenges in controlling the spread of the disease due to its climate. Casey emphasizes the importance of proactive measures, such as controlling the psyllid population and removing infected trees, to protect the citrus industry from the devastating effects of citrus greening.

While growers are taking great pains to prevent citrus greening, Casey explains that they’re also utilizing multiple strategies to help make their operations environmentally sustainable.  One approach is drip irrigation and sprinkler technology, which reduces water consumption during crop growth. They have also adopted a holistic approach to water management, focusing on groundwater recharge during wet years to ensure water availability in drier periods.

Additionally, growers have embraced integrated pest management techniques, utilizing biologicals and beneficial insects to minimize pesticide use. Efforts to manage water quality and reduce nitrate nitrogen usage have also been implemented. The citrus industry in California has been proactive in protecting pollinators, working in partnership with beekeepers to support healthy bee populations.

Growers use pesticides, integrated pest management, and biologicals to effectively manage pests and ensure the quality of their citrus crops. Pesticides are used when necessary to control pests that can damage the fruit or affect its external quality. Integrated pest management (IPM) is a comprehensive approach that combines various strategies to minimize pest populations, including the use of beneficial insects, crop rotation, and monitoring techniques. IPM aims to reduce reliance on pesticides and promote sustainable pest control practices.

Biologicals, such as beneficial insects, are natural enemies of pests and can be used as a part of IPM to target specific pests while minimizing harm to beneficial organisms and the environment. These practices help growers maintain high-quality fruit while minimizing the impact on the ecosystem.

These sustainability practices contribute to California's overall environmental stewardship of citrus - whether you are enjoying the nutrition of oranges, orange juice, or lemons.
For more on California Citrus Mutual, visit