citrus greening

Georgia Citrus Groves at Risk

Ernie NeffHLB Management

Citrus greening disease

Loundes County University of Georgia (UGA) Cooperative Extension Coordinator Jake Price recently provided huanglongbing (HLB) disease information and advice to the state’s citrus growers.

“Greening (another name for HLB) is the big gorilla in the room,” said Price, who has helped producers with the growth of citrus in Lowndes County and surrounding areas. Georgia’s citrus industry launched in 2013 and 2014 and has grown to about 2,000 acres. Georgia citrus growers produce primarily cold-hardy satsumas.

HLB, found in Florida in 2005, has drastically reduced production and the number of citrus trees in the Sunshine State.   

HLB is spread by the Asian citrus psyllid. “It (the psyllid) has not yet been found in commercial groves, but has been documented in homeowner sites along the coast and in non-commercial citrus in Lowndes County and Pierce County,” Price said. “The psyllids are well-populated in coastal Georgia counties, so it is probably only a matter of time before it shows up in commercial situations.” While cold climates can hamper the psyllid’s spread, increasingly warm winters are probably not helping the problem in Georgia, Price said.

Those who suspect they have trees with HLB and would like to have them tested can contact their local UGA Extension offices. Limited funds are assigned to each county for free citrus testing. “If a tree is already infected, we suggest that you remove the tree, roots and all,” Price said. “You have to remove the roots because the disease gets in the roots and the tree may re-sprout. You have to clear it out the best you can, then preferably burn it. That’s pretty drastic, but really it is the only way to get rid of it.”

University of Florida research suggests spraying commercial trees in Florida with a pesticide, while trees are dormant and beneficial insect populations are low, to eliminate the first generation of breeding citrus psyllids. Sticky traps are available to place in trees to monitor for psyllids, and some UGA Extension agents are using traps to monitor trees in their counties. “If you start seeing psyllids, it is a definite concern because where you find the citrus psyllids, the disease follows,” Price said.

Get more information on Georgia’s citrus industry on the UGA Citrus Blog.

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About the Author

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large