By Jaci Schreckengost
For grapefruit growers, huanglongbing (HLB) has been a huge issue, leading to many fears in the industry, including the fear of a shortage.
Rob Atchley, general manager of citrus groves for Duda Farm Fresh Foods, says HLB makes crops vulnerable to new stresses the trees have not previously encountered. He says these stresses can turn into fruit drop or leaf drop that would be unusual for trees under normal circumstances.
While the industry is not facing a grapefruit shortage at this point in time, supplies for the fresh market are struggling more than they have been in the past, Atchley says.
Grapefruit has a unique reaction — fruit size — to the stresses brought on by HLB. There have been fewer grapefruits of the larger size ranges in the fresh market, Atchley says. He explains that grapefruit is priced by different size categories, which makes it difficult for growers when this is combined with how HLB affects fruit quality.
Despite this, he says the size and quality in Florida’s Gulf region, where Duda grows grapefruit, have been sustained so far. However, he notes that the issues growers face can vary if they heavily grow grapefruit or if they grow a variety of citrus crops.
There has not been a difference among the quality of different varieties, from Atchley’s perspective. But he says there is grower discussion about it in some regions of Florida.
Atchley sees opportunity in the grapefruit industry for growers who are able to produce crops of a decent size and quality.
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