Farmers in North Florida and South Georgia watch for citrus greening

Published: Feb. 12, 2021 at 5:46 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 12, 2021 at 6:47 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - In consumer news, North Florida farmers are keeping an eye on their colleagues to the south as a disease is running rampant through their citrus groves.

It’s called Citrus Greening, and while it’s not significantly impacting farms in the Big Bend and South Georgia, farmers are keeping a lookout for the disease.

Tony Smith, the owner of the Fruit Factory, cares for his trees loaded with kumquats, blood oranges and Meyer lemons.

Smith is grateful his trees are safe from greening while watching his neighbors in central Florida sell their farms.

“To watch some of the groves who were in business for over one hundred years to not be in business anymore, it’s, you know, a little tough to see a family operation like that go out of business.” Smith said

Citrus greening is caused by bacteria, which keeps nutrients from flowing through the tree and is spread by a tiny bug, the citrus psyllid.

“The psyllid feeds on the plant, and if that plant is infected, the next plant that it goes to feed on could also become infected.” Sydni Barwick, the Thomas County Ag and Natural Resources extension agent, explained.

An infected tree stops production and dies within a few years. To stop the spread, infected trees should be uprooted.

A method growers in the eastern Big Bend use to fight greening.

“Our Taylor county growers have when they’ve found psyllids, they’d removed the trees immediately and reduced the spread of the disease.” Kim Jones, Owner, and Manager of Florida Georgia Citrus, said.

The farmers monitor groves for the citrus psyllid a way to stop the spread.

“They’re a little yellow card, and they’re mainly for trapping the citrus psyllid.” Smith described.

Cards placed on the trees catch bugs. Farmers then examine the cards for the citrus psyllid.

Despite efforts to stop this, the infection is forecasted to move into our area.

“What most experts say, it’s not a function of if, it’s when,” Barwick explained.

Now, farmers are fighting to protect their oranges from this tiny insect.

The citrus psyllid can travel with the wind, even migrating by hiding in people’s cars and on clothes.

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