The rainy, foggy days, brought on by El Nino weather patterns, have caused the spread of a fungal disease which is causing Florida’s oranges to drop from the trees prematurely. The fungal disease, PFD, or post bloom fruit drop is affecting all types of orange trees statewide.
Bryan Beer is a fifth generation orange grower in Southwest Florida. At one of the groves he manages in Hendry County, Beer said he’s heard “horror stories” about PFD from growers.
“This disease has just annihilated their whole crop for next year that they won’t even have anything to pick,” said Beer. “And you can see how bad it is on just this one tree.”
Beer grabbed an orange tree branch and pointed to what’s called a “button.” When the orange falls off, it leaves what the fruit would normally be attached to. He said it’s a sign the tree is in trouble.
University of Florida researcher Megan Dewdney has studied citrus trees for nearly a decade. She said there’s a combination of factors contributing to the current fungal spread in Florida.
For one, the orange trees are already stressed from battling the citrus greening disease, so they’re blooming at odd times. And then El Niño brought more rain than normal for winter. Dewdney said the unusual blooms plus unusual rains allowed the fungus to thrive.
Dewdney said this is a widespread problem throughout the state. But she said we won’t know the extent of crops lost until the summer.
Local grower Bryan Beer said he thinks it’s going to be “very, very, very bad.”