UGA Lab Offers Free Testing for Citrus Greening

Tacy CalliesGeorgia

Citrus greening disease in Woodbine, Georgia (Photo by J. Oliver)

The University of Georgia (UGA) Plant Molecular Diagnostic Lab is a key resource for Georgia citrus growers hoping to stay sustainable.

While it is a fee-based service lab for the UGA Department of Plant Pathology, it provides free testing for citrus producers concerned about citrus greening, says Jonathan Oliver, UGA assistant professor and small fruits pathologist.

“The diagnostic lab here in Tifton is authorized to do testing for citrus greening. We’re able to accept samples for free right now from homeowners and commercial growers in Georgia through a grant we received from the USDA,” Oliver said. “If you have concerns about trees that you have that you’d like to have tested, you can contact me, Dr. (Emran) Ali at the diagnostic lab or your county agent.”

According to the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, citrus greening affects citrus production worldwide. Early symptoms include asymmetrical yellowing of the leaves and leaf veins, while later symptoms include twig dieback and decreased yields. Fruit is often small, lopsided and not marketable.

The disease has decimated Florida’s citrus industry. Georgia industry leaders are hoping to avoid a similar fate, as citrus has spiked to 2,700 acres in the state.

“The USDA and Georgia Department of Ag have recognized that citrus is becoming important in Georgia. The citrus industry is growing, and this disease could be the thing that takes it out,” Oliver said. “It’s such an important issue that we want to get out in front of it as much as we can.” He aims to educate producers on the risks of citrus greening, including new growers who are thinking about putting in citrus as well as growers who already have invested in planting trees.

Oliver advises growers to collect leaves for testing that have obvious symptoms. “Clip off the end of a branch that has five or six leaves attached,” he said.

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Clint Thompson