Satsumas in the Sweet Valley Citrus region appear to have aced their first test of multiple days of subfreezing temperatures. It is still a wait-and-see approach with other varieties, however.
One grower was extremely optimistic about satsumas, the cold-hardy mandarins that look to have survived December temperatures in the teens.
“Satsumas are pretty darn good. We lost some leaves, got a little bit of dead wood in every tree, but we’ve got a heavy leaf flush and bloom crop coming out right now. It just depends on if it is a stress-induced bloom. It probably is, but we don’t really know,” said grower Kim Jones, who owns citrus packing facilities in Florida and Georgia.
“We’re just hanging on and seeing how many of those blooms set for the season. If they set them all, it would be a great crop, but it’s normally 2% to 5% of your blooms you hold. It looks pretty good from the satsuma side.”
Jones was one of numerous growers and industry specialists who attended the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Citrus Health Forum on Feb. 23 in Quincy. The forum focused on production throughout northern Florida and the southern regions of Alabama and Georgia, also known as the Sweet Valley Citrus region.
Jones said satsuma trees were “asleep” during the Christmas freeze, and consequently, were not hurt as bad. Other varieties appear to not be as lucky, but it is still too early to make final assessments.
The grower said he is cutting back Hamlin and navel oranges, lemons and Shiranui mandarins and does not expect big crops from those varieties. Younger groves of Tango and Marathon, mandarin varieties that are usually harvested between October and January, may also be suspect following the freeze, he added.
Jones estimates about 80% of the crop produced in the region is satsumas. Industry leaders have encouraged growers to diversify their crop portfolio and plant more non-satsuma citrus. Producers should not let last season’s cold snap discourage them from doing so.
“How many times will we see that hard of a freeze for that long of a time?” asked Jones. “It may happen again next year, or it may be 33 more years before we see it. We’re still optimistic on the other varieties.”
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