Maybe there's something to this Captain Citrus guy after all. Less than a month after the superhero hit the streets in Tampa for an advertising campaign, the $9 billion Florida citrus industry received two big bolts of energy.
Last Monday in Fort Pierce, a research geneticist was credited with building five new citrus varieties that apparently withstand citrus greening.
And Friday in the nation’s capital, the U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast a 3 percent improvement in citrus production.
“The [USDA] forecast for this season's citrus, if realized, represents a welcome increase in production despite the devastating effects of citrus greening,” state Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam said in a press release.
Manatee County can feel the juice, too. One of every three oranges grown commercially in Florida is processed by Tropicana, also the largest manufacturing employer in the county.
And the county ranks 10th in the state in citrus acreage (24,247) with more than 3.1 million trees, according to the Florida Farm Bureau.
The USDA projected 108 million boxes of oranges for 2015, up from the 104 million in 2014. But that still represents a decline of 59 percent since the peak of citrus production (254 million boxes) in 1998.
“This is a positive number as the Florida citrus grower continues to battle citrus greening disease,” said Michael W. Sparks, head of Florida Citrus Mutual. “It’s been a tight few years for production and 2014-2015 is no different.”
On Oct. 6, a Midwest-based agribusiness journal reported that the USDA was green-lighting five new rootstocks that appeared to reject citrus greening. The possible breakthrough was engineered by Kim Bowman, a Ph.D who leads the anti-greening effort at the USDA research lab in Fort Pierce.
Putnam said in his statement, “This is an all-hands-on-deck effort to defeat this scourge and save [the Florida] citrus industry and the 76,000 jobs it supports.”
Meanwhile, fear not, Captain Citrus -- the joint creation of Marvel Entertainment and the Florida Department of Citrus -- is here, promoting the ageless perks of orange juice: great taste, vitamin C, Folate, Potassium, no added sugar.
And no citrus greening.