Citrus Growers Dodge Freeze

Ernie Neff freeze

Irrigation can be used for freeze protection.

Lindy Savelle received numerous calls and texts from relatively new southern Georgia citrus growers prior to a mild freeze the morning of Dec. 2. “They were asking, ‘What should I do?’” said Savelle, president of the Georgia Citrus Association. The new growers were concerned because lows of 26 and 28 that morning were the coldest in the region in several years, Savelle said.

Frost may have damaged some foliage, but Savelle did not expect any fruit or tree damage. “I think everybody’s fruit is just fine,” she said.

Savelle did not run irrigation in her grove, but said some growers with younger trees did run microsprinklers for freeze protection.

“This morning (Dec. 2) was supposed to be the coldest,” Savelle added.

Savelle said Georgia’s commercial citrus industry is about 5 years old, with approximately 2,000 acres in 42 counties. See an update on the Georgia Citrus Association here.

In Florida, Chip Henry of McGuire Groves in Apopka reported frost and a reading of 23 degrees in his grove just before dawn on Dec. 2 but “no apparent damage visible to citrus tree foliage or Valencia oranges (yet) … I think it was beneficial in that the frost will likely kill off undesirable weeds and put the kibosh on mosquitoes.” He said the 23 degree reading at his grove was a lot colder than what was predicted.

According to Henry, there’s another upside to a freeze that causes no damage: “This will also acclimate citrus trees fairly early in the winter season, so that’s a natural benefit as well in case more freezes come our way.”

Henry added: “Last winter it got down to 30 degrees twice and barely a hint of frost, so this is a major shift in the microclimate for my area compared to the entire season last winter.”

Florida Citrus Mutual spokesman Andrew Meadows said the association had heard no reports of cold damage either Dec. 2 or Dec. 3. Mutual is the statewide association representing Florida citrus growers.  

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About the Author

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large