The discovery of citrus canker disease in Georgia last week has prompted industry leaders to caution growers about where they buy their trees.
Lindy Savelle, president of the Georgia Citrus Association, said hundreds of trees had to be removed from a grove infected with citrus canker. The trees were not from a Georgia certified nursery.
She said the best way growers can prevent citrus canker is to make sure they purchase their trees from a certified nursery, which is inspected once a month and tested twice a year.
“If we’re going to save this industry, we’ve got to do this,” Savelle said.
In Georgia, the disease infected navels and grapefruit primarily, though it has been found in some satsuma trees. The concern now is how quickly it can spread. Savelle is cautioning growers of the disease’s presence in the region.
“Citrus canker can spread by air. It can spread by water. Even if you’re blowing your chemicals with an air blast sprayer on your trees, you can blow it from one tree to the next to the next. They suspect that’s what happened, that these growers did not see it initially and kept going in there and spraying and just blew it all over their grove,” Savelle said.
“What we’re trying to do is make growers aware that it’s out there in a big way. The second thing is, whether you’re a homeowner or a citrus commercial grower, you need to be scouting and looking at your trees. If you’ve got something suspicious, go to your county Extension agent,” she advised.
Savelle noted it was a county Extension agent who identified the canker outbreak in Georgia. The grower disposed of all the infected trees, which Savelle said is the only course of action when infections are severe.
“The disease is not systemic on the tree, meaning once it gets in the tree it doesn’t go everywhere. But when half the tree has it, and it rains and it splashes on the other side of the tree, then it’s going to get it. The only way to beat it is to destroy the tree,” Savelle said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Georgia Department of Agriculture have taken samples of the canker and are currently conducting testing.