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It has been described as a Noah’s Ark for citrus: two of every kind.
Spread over 22 acres, UC Riverside’s 113-year-old Givaudan Citrus Variety Collection was founded as a place to gather and study as many citrus specimens as possible — right now, the inventory numbers at over 1,000. It’s an open-air temple where innovations in irrigation, fertilization, pest control, breeding and more have allowed California’s iconic $7-billion citrus industry to thrive for over a century.
When the trees blossom, or hang heavy with fruit of almost every conceivable shape and color — orange and yellow and purple; as small as a pinky nail or as large and gnarled as Grandpa’s hand — a stroll through the collection’s immaculately manicured orchards is downright heavenly.
But now, an apocalypse is nigh.
A bacterial infection known as citrus greening, or Huanglongbing, transmitted by the moth-like Asian citrus psyllid, has upended the agricultural world. It’s harmless to humans, but reduces trees to withered, discolored shells of their former selves that produce inedible, immature fruit.