Georgia Growers: Stop Citrus Greening Spread

Tacy CalliesCitrus Greening

citrus greening
Citrus greening (Photo source: University of Georgia Extension)

Jonathan Oliver, University of Georgia assistant professor and small fruits pathologist, is concerned about the potential impact of citrus greening disease in Georgia. That’s why he is encouraging Georgia growers to quickly dispose of infected trees if any are found.

“Once greening becomes really widespread and established in a lot of our trees, it’s really hard to stop it,” Oliver said. “It’s really important that when growers find out they have an infected tree to promptly remove that tree and keep it from being a source of continued spread.” When growers learn they have any populations of the psyllid in their area or in their planting, Oliver recommends appropriate insecticide application.

Georgia has largely avoided citrus greening disease despite its spike in production to 2,700 citrus acres. Oliver said 14 trees have been found to have the disease, 12 of which are homeowner trees. However, two commercial trees were diagnosed with the disease in the past year.

“That’s a big concern to citrus growers knowing the experience in Florida — 70% decline in citrus production over the last 15 years in commercial citrus. We don’t want that to cause problems for our growers here,” Oliver said.

According to University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, citrus greening, also known as huanglongbing, affects citrus production across the globe. Symptoms include asymmetrical yellowing of the leaves and leaf veins. Later symptoms include twig dieback and decreased yields. Fruit is often small, lopsided and not marketable. Fruit drop can also occur as a result.

“The tree can be infected for a year or two before you see any symptoms,” Oliver said. “In the meantime, the bacteria, which is spread by (the Asian citrus psyllid), can be moved around from tree to tree. If you have greening, it can be really hard to get rid of, because often it’ll be in places you don’t even know. If you find it in one spot, it’ll be in several places, kind of like cockroaches.”

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Clint Thompson