New treatment could help stop citrus greening

Posted at 6:39 PM, Sep 11, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-11 18:39:56-04

The fight against citrus greening in Florida may be closing in on a milestone.

Researchers right now are testing the use of certain chemicals -- known as bactericides -- on citrus trees. The treatment has already been proven affective on other crops like apples and pears.

"We to bulldoze this entire grove as a result of greening," said Ellis Hunt, pointing to 20-acres of empty land at his property in Lake Wales.

The deadly citrus disease destroyed his entire grove.

"I'll tell you what, I'd rather see an empty field than a dying orange grove. The worst thing in the world to a citrus grower is a dying grove," he said.

Growers like Hunt are desperate for new tools, and this latest possible solution, may be just what they're looking for.

Researchers are testing certain bactericides that can stop the spread of citrus greening, also known as HLB.

"We're optimistic that this is going to be a positive tool for us," said Andrew Meadows of Citrus Mutual.

Meadoes explains that the bactericides will help heal the trees and then allow them to nourish themselves -- something the disease was blocking.

At this moment, the EPA hasn't approved the chemical on citrus.

"We are fairly confident that the EPA will grant this section 18 emergency exemption and allow us to use this out in the field," he said.

The industry has spent millions upon millions of dollars looking for an answer.

Last year, ABC Action News traveled to Ft. Pierce, Florida to show how researchers there are trying to kill the disease using heat -- a method that is still showing promise.

"It is a gamble, but you have to believe," Hunt said.

If you don't believe him, just look at his newly planted orange grove for proof.

It's an investment no one would make if they didn't believe a real solution is coming.

"I'm optimistic," he said. "And if it does any good, it's worth it."

Industry leaders hope the EPA will approve the use of bactericides on citrus this spring, so growers can put it to use by the start of the 2016 growing season.