Published On: Wed, May 15th, 2019

Modest Comeback in Store for Florida’s Orange Crop

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POLK COUNTY, Fla. — Florida’s orange crop will be several million 90-pound boxes smaller than first predicted this season.

  • Hurricane Irma destroyed about half of citrus crop
  • Some growers believe better farmer techniques are helping
  • Numbers are still down versus peak in 2003-04
  • More Polk County headlines

But even that number shows a modest comeback for the citrus industry devastated by the citrus greening plant disease and Hurricane Irma. 

At its peak in the 2003-04 season, Florida growers harvested 242 million boxes of oranges. A couple of seasons ago before Hurricane Irma, that number had dropped to just 68 million. Then Irma destroyed about half the crop and the number was down to 44 million. 

But this season the number will be up to nearly 73 million boxes. Some Polk County growers believe better farming techniques are helping trees prosper despite greening. 

Matthew Story said his family’s business is using a new blend of liquid fertilizer with micronutrients. “These trees are very resilient,” he said. “And they have battled back and they have given us another good crop which is great.”

Story said owners of some groves his company manages have not opted to spend the money on the liquid fertilizer delivered by micro jets at the base of the trees. He said those trees don’t do as well.

“Well we are seeing a lot of die back in the stem which shows we are not getting the proper nutrition to it,” he said as he showed us a tree with greening. 

Story said growers who still have thriving trees should have had a good season and could have an even better 2019-20 season. 

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