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Georgia citrus producers need to be wary of potential diseases

Published on 04/08/19

As yield grows, Georgia citrus producers need to be wary of potential diseases

By Clint Thompson for CAES News

The citrus greening disease that has devastated Florida’s industry over the past decade is not affecting Georgia production, but growers should still be aware of the potential danger it can bring, according to Jonathan Oliver, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension fruit pathologist.

Georgia’s citrus crop is expected to double in size this year. As growers continue to plant more trees originating from out of state, Oliver cautions growers to purchase plants that are certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This certification protects farmers from purchasing trees infected with citrus greening (also known as “Huanglongbing,” or “HLB”) and helps prevent the disease from becoming a problem in Georgia.

“If there is one thing right now that Georgia growers should worry about with respect to this disease, it is where they are purchasing plants to start their groves. Growers should be planting clean plants,” Oliver said. “Fly-by-night propagators can really hurt the industry in the long run if they are distributing HLB-infected materials (or materials with other diseases).”

HLB is spread by the Asian citrus psyllid, an insect that feeds on the plant’s foliage and transmits the bacteria that causes the disease. Oliver says that if the Asian citrus psyllid becomes established in Georgia, it will transfer the bacteria from one tree to the next. He believes Georgia producers can guard against the disease, in part, simply by not purchasing low-quality plants.

“Even though plant material from some providers may be cheap, that doesn’t mean it is good and, ideally, we should be establishing clean plantings of citrus with certified materials where possible,” Oliver said.

Under the guidance of Jake Price, UGA Extension coordinator in Lowndes County, the expansion of Georgia’s citrus production started in 2013. Before 2019, Price estimated there were more than 72,000 trees in production on almost 500 acres. As many as 70,000 more trees will be added this year.

“There’s definitely still plenty of interest in citrus. There’s a lot of interest in satsumas. Tree availability is increasing, but you do have to order at least a year ahead of time,” Price said. “Growers have been encouraged to grow other citrus varieties besides satsumas to diversify the industry in Georgia.”

Similar to mandarin oranges, satsuma oranges are the most popular citrus grown in Georgia. Fruit from ‘Owari’ and ‘Brown Select’ satsuma trees is normally harvested between early November and Christmas. Satsumas decrease in quality quickly after they ripen and do not keep well on the tree.

If growers diversify their citrus production, it would allow them to extend their growing season. Most citrus varieties are not as cold hardy as satsumas, so producers assume more risk if they grow varieties other than satsumas or the newly released UGA citrus varieties.

The influx of citrus into Georgia increases the risks for disease buildup. Oliver said that the more plants in southern Georgia orchards, the more likely it is that pathogens will become problematic. Areas with a high density of plantings are especially vulnerable.

“Farmers should be aware of diseases for sure. If growers find anything suspicious, they need to contact their county agent,” Oliver said. “We haven’t found greening in our commercial plantings yet.  It is possible the bacteria is out there already in isolated trees, but since the psyllid vectors are not yet widespread, the bacteria is not going to be able to spread at this point — except through the propagation and import of infected trees.”

For more information about Georgia’s citrus crop, see

2018 Southeastern Citrus Expo

If you are interested in growing citrus and want to learn more from other growers in the southeast, join us for this informative once a year meeting of citrus growers north of Florida.

Friday November 16th. Citriholics Banquet and optional tours

Banquet 6:30 PM
Mama June’s 3286 Inner Perimeter Rd., Valdosta.

Saturday, Nov. 17. Conference Sessions will be held at Raisin Cane, 3350 Newsome Rd. Valdosta. 229-559-2000

Registration 8 – 9:30 AM Rate to be determined.

Fruit competition entry 8 – 9:30, Plant Sales

9:30 – 12 Noon Raffle between speakers

Confirmed speakers
Cally Walker, University of Florida Budwood program.
Anna Jameson, Brite Leaf Citrus Nursery, Lake Panasoffkee, FL
Pete Anderson, University of Florida, Quincy Experiment Station
Dr. Jose Chaparro, University of Florida, Citrus breeding and new varieties.

12:00 – 1:00 Lunch Available at Raisin Cane included with registration

1:00 – 4:00 Tours
Lowndes County Extension Citrus Rootstock trial.
Commercial Satsuma Orchard and Variety Trial
Non-commercial orchard and Nursery

Tour sites are all within a few miles of Raisin Cane.

Mark your calendars and watch for updates on the Southeastern Citrus Expo Facebook page.
If you want to be a vendor please contact Mark Crawford or call 229-460-5922

Preconference Private Gardens open to visit on Friday November 16th

Adel, Georgia 25 miles north of Valdosta directly off I-75

Garden of Kent Thomas. Acres of palms, Japanese maples and citrus around a beautiful lake.
305 Kent Dr. , Adel GA 229-560-1544
Traveling south on I-75 exit at the Sparks exit 41. Go east into Sparks and turn right onto US 41 south. When you cross over the railroad bridge just before Adel turn left at the BASE of the bridge onto South Ave. Kent Dr. is the first right off this road. Garden is on the left. Driveway has an enter sign.

Valdosta, Georgia

Garden of JD Thomerson. An outstanding garden of camellias, citrus, gingers and a variety of other interesting plants.
111 East Alden Ave. Valdosta 229-244-1050

Nashville, Georgia approximately 30 miles northeast of Valdosta

Triple Bee Nursery. A new citrus nursery operated by Hershell and Ricky Boyd.1128 Seaborn Boyd Rd., Nashville, GA 229-356-0074, 229-686-7287
Use GPS to locate this location




North Florida/South Georgia Cold Tolerant Citrus Workshop




Sat. June 2,2018



UF/IFAS Extension Taylor County • 203 Forest Park Drive • Perry Florida 32348


8:30–9am Registration


Welcome – plan for the day

Mr. Dan Fenneman, UF/IFAS Extension Madison County CED



Backing up your electric powered freeze protection

Mr. Arley Brillion, Mastery Engine Center, St. Petersburg Florida



Automating your irrigation, fertigation and freeze protection with air and soil moisture sensors

Doug Crawford, BMP Logic, Trenton Florida



Irrigation design for fertigation and chemigation

Dr. Charles Barrett UF/IFAS Suwannee Valley REC



Selling citrus – how do I get paid

Mr. Adam Roe, W.G. Roe and Sons, Winter Haven Florida



Latest innovations in freeze protection

Kim Jones, Bethel Oaks Farm, Monticello Florida and

Clay Lamar, 1 Dog Ventures, Georgia



Tour of Grams Legacy Grove in Perry Florida

Andy Jackson


Questions? Contact

Clay Olson UF/IFAS Extension Taylor County


Dan Fenneman UF/IFAS Extension Madison County


Fall Satsuma Meeting

There will be a Satsuma Grower’s Fall Update at Lowndes County Extension Office on October 5, 2016 from 11:30 to 3:00. The meeting with cover information on testing fruit quality, an update on HLB and the GA Citrus Association. Registration is $15 and will cover lunch. Please RSVP by October 3rd by calling the office at 229-333-5185.


Citrus Rust Mites

If you don’t know already, Lowndes County Extension has 2 research trials dealing with satsumas. There are also numerous growers in the county and surrounding counties that have satsumas. Jake Price coordinates and oversees the research trials. A pest to be looking for is the citrus rust mite. Below are pictures of the mite and the damage they cause. This mite can cause damage to the fruit in mid – summer and also in the fall. If you need more information about the mite and how to control it, you can look at the Florida Citrus Pest Management Guide.

citrus rust mite rustmite damage