Interest in citrus continues to spike in North Florida and South Georgia. Georgia acreage has doubled over the past year. North Florida acreage has increased by another 300 to 400 this spring, says grower Kim Jones. He owns a citrus packing facility in Monticello, Florida, and is president of the Cold Hardy Citrus Association.
“We’re seeing a whole lot of acres being planted. It’s hard to get trees. We’ve had some difficulties getting trees for Georgia growers and Florida growers,” Jones says. “But there’s still a lot of demand and a lot of interest in planting them; a lot of cleaning up being done and wells put in and irrigation put in.”
According to Jones, he ordered 2,000 trees in 2019 and won’t be able to get them until next year in April.
Jones estimates North Florida acreage is up to around 1,200 to 1,300 acres. South Georgia’s acreage is approximately 2,000 acres. Acreage is increasing despite the citrus greening disease that has devastated trees in the rest of Florida.
“We’re worried about it, but hopefully counting on there being a solution or a remedy to that before long. We’re just hoping and praying that’s the case,” Jones says. He notes that citrus greening is in Perry and all along the Gulf Coast in East Point, Apalachicola and Panama City. However, the disease has only been found in homeowner trees and has not been identified yet in commercial groves.
Jones believes that since most of the citrus groves are isolated and spaced out, they should be able to fight the disease. Growers are watching out for Asian citrus psyllids, the insects that vector citrus greening, he says.
“There’s not much that won’t kill a psyllid,” Jones adds. “We’re not doing preventative sprays, but we’re already having to spray for the other insects; it helps keep them at bay.”