Update on Georgia Citrus Production

Tacy CalliesGeorgia, Production

The majority of citrus grown in Georgia is satsuma mandarins.

The citrus industry in Georgia is quickly gaining ground.

Extension agents from Fort Valley State University (FVSU), University of Georgia (UGA) and the University of Florida (UF) hosted a virtual conference on April 27 providing updates from UGA Extension on citrus production in Georgia.

Topics discussed during the meeting included current citrus production numbers in Georgia, tree sources, yield forecasts and a rootstock data summary for the 2019 season.

Currently, citrus is grown throughout 41 counties in the state of Georgia. According to Jake Price, Lowndes County UGA Cooperative Extension coordinator, the number of citrus trees in Georgia has nearly doubled each year. This spring there are over 265,000 citrus trees across the state, which is a substantial increase from the state’s 4,000 trees in 2013.

According to Price, it wasn’t until 2018 that growers began putting in large acreage for citrus production.

“Initially, growers were small landowners and non-traditional farmers that wanted a little something on the side, maybe to sell to the school systems. But, in 2018, a lot of the bigger farmers saw that things were working out pretty well,” Price says.

The bulk of the fruit being produced in Georgia, 80 to 85 percent, is satsuma mandarins. Satsumas are a cold-tolerant citrus. Once established, they can withstand temperatures as low as 15 degrees.

Based on the 2019 Owari satsuma rootstock trial, researchers found that fruit quality improves as trees age. According to Price, the two rootstocks that have proven to be the most consistent so far are US-942 and US-812. Cold hardiness has not been a problem with any of these rootstocks.

“These fruit looked really good last year,” Price says.

Another observation based on the trial is that satsuma fruit quality is particularly low the first two years and shouldn’t be sold within that time. “You don’t want to make a poor first impression on your customers, especially when Georgia is just starting to get into the citrus business. You don’t want to have low-quality fruit being the first thing people taste,” Price says.

Extension professionals from UF, UGA and FVSU have teamed up to create a quarterly newsletter called the Cold Hardy Citrus Connection. It is focused on relevant information for citrus growers in cold-hardy regions. To sign up to receive the newsletter, email Danielle Sprague at dsprague@ufl.edu.

Presentations from the virtual conference can be viewed here.

This article was written by Ashley Robinson, AgNet Media communications intern.