Citrus harvests are just a few months away for growers in the cold-hardy citrus region of eastern Alabama, southern Georgia and the Florida Panhandle. Unfortunately, those harvests will be reduced to about 25% of the normal crop, according to industry leaders.
The Christmas freeze event devastated this year’s crop in the region. Kim Jones, who grows and packs citrus in Florida and Georgia, said that freeze, coupled with the one experienced in March, left growers with minimal production this season.
“The Christmas freeze was one that was really bad; almost four days below 19 degrees. That’s pretty tough,” Jones said. “The March freeze was just a harder frost. What little that had come back got zapped again with a hard frost.”
According to Jones, the trees used up all of their carbohydrates trying to live, resulting in a small amount of fruit.
“We had a heavy bloom crop, but the bloom crop dropped in the middle of April just about entirely,” reported Jones. “We’ll have 20% to 30% of the crop. Some varieties are zero. Some varieties are fairly good. It’s very inconsistent.”
Lindy Savelle, president of the Georgia Citrus Association, advises growers to continue with their normal management plan this time of year.
“We’re doing everything this year as if the trees were loaded,” says Savelle. “We’re still fertilizing. We’re still spraying and still taking care of them because we’re building for the future.”
She said growers aren’t backing off on inputs because they want to protect, save and sell the fruit that is remaining on the trees. The good news, she says, is that growers still have trees.
“You’re going to have setbacks. Every year is not going to be a high production year,” Savelle says. “We’re just grateful we’ve still got trees viable for production in the future.”
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