HLB Could End Georgia’s Citrus Industry

Daniel Cooper Georgia, HLB Management

Roger Smith

One California citrus leader believes Georgia should respond more aggressively to huanglongbing (HLB, also known as citrus greening) for the sake of the industry’s future in the state.

Roger Smith, fourth-generation citrus producer and executive of AC Foods, spoke during the recent Georgia Citrus Association meeting in Tifton. He discussed the disease that devastated citrus production in Florida and could potentially eye Georgia next.

“It should be their No. 1 worry for their industry. This disease spreads by the movement of the insect. Insects are moved by the wind. The fact that there are HLB-positive trees in Georgia that haven’t been pulled out, and there’s no eradication program in place, is concerning,” Smith said.

He said that in California, after one HLB-positive tree was found in Hacienda Heights, legislation was passed, a new program was developed, and a marketing order was built around it.

“We started eradicating with a vengeance in California, and the disease is still gaining ground on us,” Smith added.

Citrus greening is a disease that affects production throughout the world, especially in Florida and most recently in Texas. The Asian citrus psyllid transmits the bacterium Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus, which causes HLB.

Along with eradicating infected trees, Smith said growers should prioritize psyllid control to help avoid the disease from becoming widespread.

“The California program is successful because it’s multi-level. It’s one of the reasons my presentation talked about so many different things,” Smith said. “They should at the very least be doing biological releases of Tamarixia radiata into this region to try to reduce the risk of psyllids. California is pretty cold for citrus production, and we still have issues with psyllids. The weather is not going to keep the psyllids from moving into the citrus areas here. The growers need to get together and start addressing it seriously or they’ll be facing what happened in Texas. It’s now sweeping through Texas.

“If they don’t get together and figure something out on it, it could be a thing to end the industry even before it gets started.”

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Clint Thompson

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