HLB has yet to become a major problem for Georgia’s citrus producers. Jonathan Oliver, University of Georgia assistant professor and small fruits pathologist, attributes the disease’s lack of presence in Georgia’s commercial groves to multiple factors.
“It still comes down to the fact that, number one, you don’t see symptoms for a while. A lot of our trees are young,” Oliver says. “Number two, even though we have a lot more acreage, they’re not big, contiguous plantings. They’re a lot smaller plantings here and there. The (Asian citrus) psyllid, which has to reproduce and spread from site to site, may not be able to easily move to spread the disease around. The psyllid may not be surviving quite as well, in some years at least, when we have real strong cold spells. It’s just not continuing to build up in some places, so that’s probably helping us a little bit.”
According to Oliver, HLB has been found in 13 counties in Georgia, though mostly in residential trees. That’s in stark contrast to trees in Florida where HLB has infected more than 80% of the state’s trees. The disease has caused $4.5 billion in lost citrus production, according to Oliver. He’s hoping that type of impact can be prevented in Georgia.
Photo: J. Oliver
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