Georgia Citrus Growers focus on crop diversity to mitigate disease threats

The Farm Monitor takes us to the Georgia Citrus Growers annual conference in Tifton to learn more about the opportunities and challenges they face.

Georgia may be famous for its namesake fruit, the peach, but citrus is an industry on the rise! Only a decade ago, Georgia was home to just 4,700 citrus trees. Today it has more than half a million! The Farm Monitor takes us to the State’s citrus growers annual conference to learn more about the opportunities and challenges they face.

Citrus growers from across the state recently congregated in Tifton for their annual conference, aimed at fostering collaboration and knowledge exchange crucial for sustaining Georgia’s citrus industry. The event marked the seventh gathering, drawing experts and growers from California, Florida, and Georgia to deliberate on strategies ensuring the industry’s longevity.

With Georgia’s citrus sector witnessing substantial growth in recent years, conference discussions centered on fortifying the industry against looming threats, particularly diseases and pests. Emphasizing the need for proactive measures, speakers underscored the potential devastation caused by diseases like citrus greening, which has ravaged Florida’s citrus industry, serving as a cautionary tale.

“While Georgia’s citrus industry has seen remarkable growth, we’re keenly aware of the risks posed by diseases like citrus greening,” remarked one industry expert. “The threat is not just economic but existential, capable of wiping out entire orchards if left unchecked.”

Diversification emerged as a key strategy to mitigate risks associated with disease outbreaks. Over the years, the state has witnessed a shift towards cultivating a broader range of citrus varieties, including Tango, Shiranui, grapefruit, and mandarins, alongside the traditional Satsumas. This diversification aims to extend the harvesting season, reducing vulnerability to market saturation during peak periods.

Despite the industry’s strides, concerns linger over the potential impact of disease outbreaks. Citrus greening, in particular, poses a significant risk due to its ability to decimate orchards and compromise fruit quality as seen in Florida. Growers stressed the importance of vigilant management practices and tree approvals to curb the spread of diseases and safeguard the industry’s future.

As Georgia’s citrus industry continues to evolve, stakeholders remain committed to collaborative efforts aimed at ensuring its resilience and sustainability against emerging challenges. The conference concluded with a renewed sense of purpose and determination to confront the threats facing the state’s citrus growers, underscoring the industry’s vital role in Georgia’s agricultural landscape.

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