Some growers have just given up and abandoned their groves without pulling up the trees, which can worsen citrus greening, since the psyllid will feast on trees that don’t have pesticide, and then fly to nearby groves and infect those trees. There were 126,000 acres of abandoned groves in Florida in 2014, and 7,300 acres of forested areas that have abandoned citrus in their canopies, according to the USDA.
There are some measures that arrest or slow the spread of the disease, but they’re costly. Growers are now treating their trees eight times a year or more to reduce the number of psyllids on them, they’re also adding fertilizer and other nutrients to the trees’ roots to help them fight the disease. A citrus grower now spends $2,250 an acre to grow trees—prior to greening, he would spend $850 an acre, according to Florida Citrus Mutual, an industry association.
“The smaller growers seem to be really thinking about the economics, a lot of them are deciding to throw in the towel and are selling their groves,” said Dean Saunders, a real-estate broker who served in the state House of Representatives and comes from an agricultural family.