(Jan. 23) No one likes to surrender, but it appears that in the war against citrus canker in Florida, that’s the only reasonable option.

The question now for the state’s fresh industry, in light of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s announcement that it will no longer fund eradication, is what will be the terms.

From 1995, when the disease was discovered in Florida, to July 2004, 16,000 acres of commercial oranges and grapefruit were destroyed because of canker, according to Andy LaVigne, executive vice president and chief executive officer of Florida Citrus Mutual, Lakeland.

Since July 2004, after being spread by a parade of hurricanes the past two seasons, canker has caused more than 70,000 additional acres to be either burned or slated for burning, LaVigne said. The USDA projects up to 183,000 acres on top of that are infected now, acres that would have had to be destroyed under a recently abandoned Florida law that called for all trees within a 1,900-foot radius of each infected tree to be removed.

With only 641,400 commercial acres in Florida, it’s easy to see where things would have gone without a change of course. The cure was worse than the disease.

“The disease is now so widely distributed that eradication is infeasible,” said USDA Deputy Secretary Chuck Conner.

The USDA and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services have said they will announce a plan for canker management, as opposed to eradication, by mid-March.

Decreasing the radius of tree removal to 700 feet from each infected tree is one option that should strongly be considered. Some research suggests such a requirement still would catch 90% of canker.

Other potential methods of control include moving nurseries away from citrus-producing areas, quicker detection of infection, defoliation of groves near a diseased tree and the development of disease-resistant varieties.

The effect of any management plan must take into account its potential effect on other citrus-producing states and on domestic and export sales. Many Florida grower-shippers send half of their fresh citrus overseas. Europe has strict limitations on canker-infected fruit, which, although safe for human consumption, is blemished.

The plan also must ensure that growers already hurt by canker and the now-defunct eradication plan still will be compensated for trees that have been destroyed.