annual meeting

CITRUS NURSERY SOURCE: Georgia Citrus Association Annual Meeting Focused on HLB and More

Daniel CooperCitrus Nursery Source, Events, Georgia

The Georgia Citrus Association held its seventh annual meeting in Tifton in February. The event was well attended.
Photo by Peter Chaires

By Peter Chaires

The Georgia Citrus Association held its seventh annual meeting on Feb. 27 at the University of Georgia (UGA) campus in Tifton. As usual, the event was well organized and well attended. The agenda included topics such as:

  • U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service programs
  • A history and overview of the collaboration between USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the Florida Citrus Research Foundation at the Whitmore Foundation Farm in Groveland, Florida
  • Suitability of new varieties
  • Use of silicon to improve cold hardiness
  • UGA citrus support programs
  • Pests and disease
  • A grower panel

It was a value-packed day.

Roger Smith traveled from California and cautioned Georgia growers to work hard to prevent HLB from getting established in the state.
Photo by Clint Thompson

Roger Smith of TreeSource Citrus Nursery in Woodlake, California, traveled quite a distance to share insights learned in California that may help Georgia’s citrus industry. Not surprisingly, his focus was on HLB. He cautioned the Georgia industry to take HLB seriously before the disease reaches Florida levels. He outlined the following steps taken by the California citrus industry to prevent HLB from becoming endemic and urged Georgia to consider them:

  • Initiate a multi-pest survey in the state.
  • Test trees and remove positive trees. Treat surrounding trees with neonicotinoids.
  • Establish a clean-plant program for clean nursery stock. Trees going to the field must be healthy.
  • Release Tamarixia radiata as a biological control in urban areas. Once T. radiata becomes established, it is effective at limiting Asian citrus psyllid populations.
  • Establish a strong data analysis program to inform program decisions.
  • Establish a Scientific Advisory Committee and seek their input regularly.
  • Use compliance agreements as a means of regulatory enforcement. Mandate tarping of citrus loads.
  • Set up a system and facilities for lab diagnosis of psyllids and plant samples.
  • Design and implement an educational outreach program, similar to California’s Save Our Citrus campaign.
  • Utilize local and county offices for contract services where and when needed. In California, this is done through county agriculture commissioners. In Georgia, perhaps this could be done through Extension offices.
  • California stepped up and funded what needed to be done. Growers assessed themselves $.09/carton and obtained support from the Citrus Health Response Program and general revenue funds to cover a $44 million program.

Overall, the message was well received. Growers seem to be questioning whether HLB will ever get as bad in Georgia as it is in Florida. Like in California, Georgia gets intense summer heat and generally colder temperatures in the winter than Florida. However, Georgia is more humid and has more rainfall than California. Whether these conditions will be conducive to keeping HLB at bay in Georgia is the big unanswered question.

Smith’s advice is to not take a chance. Do whatever is necessary to prevent widespread establishment of the disease. Some Georgia growers are asking whether the vector and disease have already reached levels that make testing and tree removal impractical. These are difficult questions that the Georgia citrus industry will have to address soon. The good news is that they are seeking input from experienced expert sources.


USDA’sMatt Mattia presented highlights of the 65-year history of the Whitmore Foundation Farm and the collaborative relationship between USDA-ARS and the Florida Citrus Research Foundation (the owner and managing entity of the farm property). His presentation covered scion breeding (and new selections of interest), rootstock breeding, certified rootstock seed production, the cultivar display block and expanded plantings of the Donaldson and other early sweet oranges.

Mattia’s presentation highlighted the relevance of the Whitmore Farm and put attention on the national focus of USDA-ARS citrus research and how Georgia might participate in or expand the work being done there. Georgia growers will certainly be interested in attending the next Whitmore Foundation Farm open house and field day, typically held in December.

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