With citrus greening still devastating Florida citrus populations, many growers are now shifting their focus and testing out an alternative cash crop: Avocados.
It’s not like this is a new idea. Big “greenskin” Avocado varieties have been thriving on the warm southern tip of Florida for decades, where avocado orchards have swelled to 7,500 acres or so in Miami-Dade County, the premier producing region.
Florida farmers wish to continue expanding Avocado crop populations beyond this region. In more northern regions of Florida, growers hope to develop Hass avocados that respond well to the surroundings. But all of this is contingent on finding viable solutions in the face of current hurdles specific to avocado farming, namely Laurel wilt disease.
Researchers and avocado growers have long been fighting the progression of Laurel wilt disease, a fungus that’s spread by non-native ambrosia beetles and kills various bay and avocado trees. Once it infects, it stops the flow of water in host trees, causing the leaves to wilt. Because the beetles prefer bay trees, their numbers are expected to dwindle as bay tree numbers fall off. Due to this extreme beetle invasion in the Southern United States, the bay trees are sadly dying out.
But just waiting for the beetles to die off really isn’t a sound solution. Thus, many strains of avocado trees are in the testing phase to discover resistance to wilt. With any luck, researchers will discover a sound solution so citrus farmers can confidently diversify their citrus land with a wilt-resistant avocado crop.
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