By Clint Thompson
Citrus acreage is expanding across South Georgia and North Florida.
But those interested in planting future acres will have to wait, likely, years before they receive their plants, says Jake Price, University of Georgia Lowndes County Extension Coordinator.
“If you’re wanting a tree now, it’s probably going to be 2023, probably. If you had ordered it six months ago, it might have been 2022,” said Price, who was instrumental in getting citrus production started in Georgia. “Folks that were supposed to get plants in April or May, and if it’s going to be October or November, you might as well wait until the next year.”
Citrus producer Kim Jones can attest to the delay.
“I’ve got 2,000 trees I can’t get. They won’t be here until next April,” Jones said. “I ordered them in 2019 and won’t get them until next year.”
Why the Delay?
There are a couple of factors that have led to the delay in trees getting to the customers in a timely manner. One is COVID-19. Its impact from March 2020 to now has slowed production considerably.
“I think COVID slowed it down a little bit. I know one nursery that all the people that worked there caught COVID. That delayed everything, and pushed this back and that back,” Price said. “It probably ended up pushing them back a year.”
Another factor is producers getting the rootstocks they desire. It takes time.
“It just takes a couple of years to get a tree, really. If you don’t have the rootstock, you’ve got to plant the rootstock. You’ve got to grow it. Then you’ve got to graft on to it and then grow that out. It could take two years,” Price said. “Florida can do it quicker than we can because they have a longer growing season. They don’t deal as much with satsumas as we do. We’re trying to get people to plant other things too, besides satsumas.”
Jones estimates North Florida acreage is up to around 1,200 to 1,300 acres. South Georgia’s acreage is around 2,000 acres.