Christmas Freeze Effect: ‘Every Variety’ of Georgia Citrus Suffered Damage

Clint Thompson Citrus

By Clint Thompson

This winter season provided the first cold challenge for Georgia-produced citrus. With multiple days of sub-freezing temperatures during Christmas week, the impact was not good for trees produced throughout the state.

Jake Price, University of Georgia (UGA) Lowndes County Extension coordinator, discussed the situation during the Southeast Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference in Savannah, Georgia.

Jake Price

“Pretty much every variety has damage, some more than others. It’s still early. Every time you go out and look at your trees, they change a little bit,” Price said. “A lot of them are shedding foliage which is not a bad thing. That means the tree is still alive and able to drop the foliage, but it’s still too early to tell.

“Satsumas look a little better than the other ones. They do have more leaf drop than I’ve seen in probably nine or 10 years.”

Temperatures dropped below 20 degrees Fahrenheit on Christmas Eve, with the lows staying in the 20s for the next four days. It was the first time Georgia citrus was exposed to prolonged low temperatures during their brief history.

“Five nights below 22 (F) in Valdosta. We got down to 16 degrees (F), and I think the first night about 20 hours below freezing. They haven’t seen that before,” Price said. “Probably the most prior to that was 10 or 11 hours below 32 (F). This was about double.”

The only positive development was the temperatures’ impact on the Asian citrus psyllid, the vector of citrus greening disease.

“They are cold sensitive to the minimum temperature and also to the length or duration of the freeze, too. That would be a silver lining,” Price added.