By Michael GormanThe orange groves that were once synonymous with citrus have been in decline in recent years, but there’s still a handful of big citrus producers that can still be found in the U.S.A. Citrus growers are a lot like farmers in the Midwest and Central Plains, the two areas where citrus production is the most heavily dependent on irrigation.
But the citrus industries in the two regions are different.
In the Midwest, citrus production relies on irrigated croplands.
In Colorado, citrus is grown on a variety of irrigated land, and the irrigation systems are all located in the same region.
The difference is that the citrus farms in Colorado use a much different irrigation system.
The orange and lemon varieties are most susceptible to water-soaked diseases.
In California, citrus growers have to irrigate their citrus trees about every three years, or the crop loses about one-third of its juice.
The same can be said for citrus in Florida, Texas, and Florida.
In some cases, citrus can die from drought.
In some states, the citrus trees in the fall can lose a large amount of their foliage.
And because of climate change, the demand for water in California is increasing.
For many farmers, the outlook is dire.
They have to be vigilant.
“We have a very tight budget,” said Jim Caudill, president of the American Orange Growers Association.
“The weather is extremely variable.”
But growers are also finding it more difficult to predict the future.
The drought that is ravaging citrus in California and Florida is a reminder of the dangers of not having enough water.
“When you think about the fact that you’re in California or Florida, and you’re just going to have a couple of years with that, and then it’s not going to get better, it’s just going the same way over and over again,” said Caudell.
The California drought has led to citrus growers trying to save their trees, but many of them have to keep cutting them down to make room for new ones.
There is a growing recognition that climate change is impacting citrus, and growers are starting to look at alternatives.
Some growers are using algae as fertilizer, and others are experimenting with genetically modified varieties of citrus that are resistant to drought.
But all of these solutions can be costly.
The citrus industry, like other agricultural sectors, has a long way to go to get out of this crisis.
The industry’s bottom line is tied to water and irrigation, and it’s going to continue to be that way for the foreseeable future.
But as the world warms, many farmers are starting out from scratch.