The cold-hardy citrus region endured another test of Mother Nature on Wednesday with Hurricane Idalia moving through the Southeast. One industry expert is optimistic that the area’s trees survived this latest challenge.
“I am happy to report that citrus in Georgia appears to have fared very well,” said grower Lindy Savelle, president of the Georgia Citrus Association and member of the Georgia Citrus Commission. “While there were significant winds, none of the fruit was lost from the trees, and we are hopeful the fruit is undamaged. We had about 60 mile-per-hour wind gusts and less than 3 inches of total rain. East of us had more significant winds and rain.”
Savelle’s farm is located in Thomas County, Georgia, part of the cold-hardy citrus region comprised of eastern Alabama, southern Georgia and the Florida Panhandle. Thomas County was in the path of Idalia when it moved through the area.
“On the greenhouse side, you worry about the plastic holding on and something piercing that plastic. That happens, and it causes problems,” Savelle said. “On the field side, we’ve got so little fruit from the winter storm that you worry about the winds knocking all the fruit off, and, of course, blowing over trees. We haven’t had that either here, so we’ve been very fortunate.”
However, Savelle did hear a report of a citrus nursery in Perry, Florida, that suffered significant damage.
The more mature a fruit is, the more vulnerable it is to being knocked to the ground amid heavy wind speeds. Savelle said her fruit is not ripe, so that helped it stay on the trees.
“They’ve sized up. Most of them that are on our trees are the size they will be,” she said. “It’s just a matter of them maturing now. We’re hoping they don’t get much bigger because they’re a good size right now.”
Citrus fruit in the cold-hardy region was subjected to high winds during Hurricane Michael in 2018. Fruit did not fall off the tree but suffered damage to the quality. Savelle said that should not be the case this time around.
Early reports from other citrus production areas in Central and South Florida indicate minimal impacts and no significant damage or fruit drop. Some areas received saturating rainfall from the storm in certain groves.
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