Irma devastates Florida oranges, other crops
Hurricane Irma dealt Florida’s iconic orange crop a devastating blow, destroying nearly all the fruit in some Southwest Florida groves and seriously damaging groves in Central Florida.
U.S. Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio toured groves in Lake Wales in September and heard from growers, who pleaded for federal assistance.
In Lake Wales, the senators saw young fruit on the ground and trees split by wind. Growers talked of trees standing in 3 feet of water, which is a death sentence for a crop already under a decade-long siege by citrus greening disease.
“Citrus is the crop that Florida’s associated with and it’s already facing significant challenges,” said Rubio. “Economically, it’s an enormous priority for the state.”
Much of the fruit was young, and it’s too late in the season to grow a new crop.
“We’ve had many hurricanes, we’ve had freezes, but this one is widespread,” said Harold Browning with the Citrus Research and Development Foundation. “We’re seeing the kind of damage we haven’t seen, ever.”
Fruit growers and farmers expect a significant effect on the state’s citrus, sugar cane and vegetable crops.