Science Makes Progress on the Lime Shortage Front

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As a gin and tonic enthusiast, I have been very concerned over the state of limes this year. It's been a rough time for limes: greening, poor weather and Mexican cartels have been affecting lime prices and quantities. While wasps are starting to help the citrus growers, there has been another breakthrough which will help Florida groves.

Sad grapefruit affected by Greening. REUTERS/Joe Skipper 

Researchers have determined that a chemical used to treat gout in humans might just work for citrus trees as well. Around 70 percent of the limes in Florida have been affected by citrus greening disease, or "Huanglongbing," which spreads through the Asian citrus psyllid. Scientists at the University of Florida are "really hopeful" that the human gout treatment will successfully slow the spread of greening in 80 percent of trees. 

Scientists at the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have been researching greening treatments for the last three years. They tested about 1,200 compounds. All that testing led to three potential solutions: hexestrol, phloreting, and benzbromarone — that's the one used to treat gout in humans. 

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Greening disease has cost Florida's economy $4.5 billion since 2006 and led to the termination of 6,700 jobs because of how heavily the juice product industry was affected.

While the benzbromarone solution seems like it will be successful, it will take five to seven years until the chemical is commercially available. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will have to investigate and approve as well. The main test that has to be made: whether the gout treatment chemical affects the taste of citrus. No one wants a lime in their G&T that tastes like gout medicine. 

On the bright side, scientist are working really hard to bring limes back to your cocktails and Coronas. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.