Citrus greening disease is no longer just a problem in residential trees in Georgia. For the first time last year, citrus greening, also known as huanglongbing or HLB, was observed in commercial plantings in Pierce, Wayne and Grady counties, says Jonathan Oliver, University of Georgia (UGA) assistant professor and small fruits pathologist.
Oliver discussed the disease during a citrus meeting in Valdosta, Georgia, on Aug. 9.
“In all the cases, the growers destroyed the trees after they were found to be HLB-positive,” reported Oliver. He added there was some evidence that suggests the disease may have moved into groves, as opposed to trees that were infected at planting.
“In these locations where we did find evidence of spread, we didn’t necessarily find the psyllids,” Oliver said.
UGA has conducted a survey in previous years to examine HLB’s impact in Georgia and understand where it is located. While the number of infected trees impacted pales in comparison to the disease’s devastation in Florida, HLB cases have increased over time in Georgia. Out of 1,000 trees tested, 24 tested positive for greening in 11 counties.
There are no HLB-resistant cultivars currently available. Insecticides can reduce the spread, but are not enough to prevent the spread, as seen in Florida and Brazil.
“Based on the devastation to Florida’s industry over the last 20 years, you can’t not be concerned about it,” said Oliver. “The idea that HLB would not be a problem here (in Georgia) because the cold temperatures would kill off the vector probably are not founded. The populations must still be fairly low of the vector. I’m sure the freeze we had before Christmas did not help the psyllid populations either. In the long term, how fast it’s going to spread in Georgia is still to be determined, but it is something growers should be aware of and is likely going to continue to increase to some extent in Georgia.”
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