Making A Difference in Our County
University of Georgia Cooperative Extension is working hard for its constituents. The following are examples of Extension’s impact in the county over the past year.
Agriculture and Natural Resources
Educating Agents & Growers to Identify and Contain Citrus Canker
SUMMARY: Citrus canker is a bacterial disease that affects citrus trees. Canker has been a significant and economically consequential problem in Florida citrus for decades and has been eradicated from Florida on two occasions. This disease had not been discovered in Georgia until suspected foliage was found in Decatur County on May 17th, 2022. Efforts have been made to educate extension agents and growers about this disease.
SITUATION: Citrus canker is a bacterial disease that can cause tree defoliation and cankers on fruit, making affected fruit unsellable. In addition, the presence of the disease requires additional inputs by packing houses to process fruit from quarantined locations. Citrus canker disease is subject to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)-Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) quarantine regulations. Leaves with potential citrus canker symptoms were first identified on May 17th, 2022 by Mitchell County Agent, Brian Hayes. Leaf samples were initially tested at a University of Florida laboratory and at the University of Georgia Plant Disease Clinic in Athens, Georgia. Positive samples were then forwarded to USDA-APHIS who officially confirmed the presence of citrus canker bacterium in the symptomatic plant tissue. As federal guidelines require surveys to determine the extent of citrus canker establishment within the state, Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) and USDA-APHIS PPQ personnel have begun conducting a survey for citrus canker infected trees in the area of Georgia where it was first confirmed. Citrus canker can be spread by equipment, people, and animals to other groves so quick identification and education regarding this issue is important.
RESPONSE: Proactive response: In 2020, prior to the discovery of citrus canker in Georgia, Dr. Emran Ali, director of the UGA Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory in Tifton, Georgia applied for a Specialty Crop Block Grant titled “Statewide survey and diagnosis of citrus canker in Georgia groves”. Dr. Jonathan Oliver, UGA fruit pathologist and Mr. Jake Price, Area Citrus Agent were partners for this grant. The grant was approved.
Agent Trainings: On June 17th, The GDA officially confirmed that citrus canker was present in Georgia. Dr. Jonathan Oliver, Brian Hayes, and Jake Price, conducted a training on June 23rd to instruct agents in the Southwest District on how to correctly identify citrus canker and how to distinguish canker from diseases with similar symptoms. In addition, test kits obtained using Specialty Crop Block Grant funds were distributed to agents and citrus consultants to enable the onsite and rapid testing of suspect trees for concerned growers. In addition, citrus canker education has been presented to all ANR agents in the Southwest and Southeast Districts at ANR agent trainings.
Educating Growers: On July 20th, a grower meeting titled the “Southeast Citrus Update”, with 56 in attendance was held in Tattnall County. In addition, a meeting titled the “Citrus Grower’s Summer Update” with 70 in attendance was held in Lowndes County on July 28th. At both of these meetings growers and agents in attendance were presented with the latest citrus information including canker identification methods and recommendations for preventing the spread of the disease. Growers attending these meetings were from many of the citrus growing counties in southern Georgia and northern Florida.
IMPACT: The distribution of canker test strips has allowed agents to conduct citrus canker tests in the field. Using these test strips, an additional canker positive sample was identified by Mitchell County Agent Brian Hayes at a location in Decatur County. Currently, USDA-APHIS is collaborating with the Georgia Department of Agriculture to conduct additional testing around the initial site where canker was identified in Georgia to gather more data before establishing a quarantine zone. The Georgia Department of Agriculture is now testing citrus groves for citrus canker throughout the state and in mid-September, a second commercial site was confirmed to have citrus canker. Through rapid testing and canker identification, it is hoped that citrus canker can be eradicated from Georgia.
The impacts of the citrus canker extension trainings and presentations in Mitchell, Tattnall, and Lowndes counties were assessed through pre- and post-training evaluations distributed to the participants of these events. Based upon the evaluations that were returned attendees reported gains in knowledge, awareness, and confidence regarding citrus canker diagnosis. Specifically:
• Mitchell County Agent/Consultant training. 82% reported enhanced confidence in their ability to recognize the symptoms of citrus canker. 82% reported more awareness of the UGA resources available for the diagnosis of citrus canker disease following this training.
• Tattnall County grower training. 83%, reported enhanced confidence in their ability to recognize the symptoms of citrus canker. 79% reported more awareness of the UGA resources available for the diagnosis of citrus canker disease following this training.
• Lowndes County grower training, 78% reported enhanced confidence in their ability to recognize the symptoms of citrus canker. 74% reported more awareness of the UGA resources available for the diagnosis of citrus canker disease following this training. Information submitted by: Mr. Jake Price-Lowndes County Extension Agent/Area Citrus Agent; Mr. Brian Hayes-Mitchell County Extension Agent; Mr. Aubrey Shirley-Tattnall County Extension Agent; Dr. Jonathan Oliver-UGA Fruit Pathologist.
EVALUATING 29 CITRUS VARIETIES GROWN IN GEORGIA
SUMMARY: Georgia growers have been encouraged to diversify their citrus planting away from satsuma mandarins (Citrus unshiu), but there is little information on how other varieties perform in Georgia and when they mature. Lowndes county extension collected fruit samples from 29 varieties and tested the Total Soluble Solids and Titratable Acidity on fruit harvested on December 15, 2021.
SITUATION: In order to form a more complete citrus industry, southern Georgia and northern Florida growers have been encouraged to plant varieties other than satsuma mandarins. The viability and quality of many citrus varieties in Georgia is unknown but some varieties have shown promise and survivability in the short term. Fruit from northern Florida and southern Georgia are being grown for the fresh market and questions remain on fruit quality and time of harvest for many different varieties. There is no Georgia information on the total soluble solids (TSS) and titratable acidity (TA) in the fruit and these are indicators of fruit quality. Taste panels have revealed that consumer preference of different citrus fruits is not based on sugar content alone but a blend of sugars and acid. The average consumer wants a pleasantly tart or subacid fruit, and this requires certain proportions of sugar to acid. For this reason, the TSS, which is mostly sugars, and the TSS/TA ratio are important parameters to consider when citrus fruit is ready to harvest. There is also interest from other citrus growing regions in the TSS and TA of fruit grown in Georgia as juice companies and growers are looking for new locations to grow fruit due to the pressure from citrus greening in Florida.
RESPONSE: On December 15, 2021 five randomly selected citrus fruits (unless otherwise noted) were picked and juiced into one sample from each variety/rootstock combination represented in the chart below. Larger samples sizes are preferred but 5 fruit/tree provides a small snapshot of the fruit quality. All plantings were from Lowndes and Lanier counties except for the ‘Pink Frost” grapefruit (UGA) and the ‘Grand Frost’ lemon (UGA) which came from a planting in Tift county. The TSS and TA of each sample was tested using an Atago 3810 Digital Pocket Refractometer and the acid was derived using a Mettler Toledo automatic titrator. These tests were performed at the Vidalia Onion Research Lab in Tifton, Georgia. Photos were taken of 2-4 of the fruit prior to juicing from each sample to show the exterior and interior of the fruit. Table 1 provides data as it relates to 1) varieties currently being grown in Georgia, 2) when they were planted, 3) what rootstocks they were grafted, 4) the TSS levels 5) the TA, and 6) the TSS/TA ratio. The values in the list below provide information on these varieties that should assist growers in choosing which varieties to plant and when they may mature. These tests will be repeated for several years on December 15 to re-enforce the data.
Impact: Twenty-nine citrus varieties and 40 different variety/rootstock combinations were evaluated for TSS and TA levels. The TSS/TA ratio gives an indication of whether or not fruit is ready for harvest. A TSS/TA ratio over 10 is normally desired but there are exceptions. Citrus does not continue to ripen after harvest, so the fruit must be allowed to reach peak maturity on the tree. Each citrus growing state can set their own standards for harvest and standards depend on whether the fruit is for fresh eating or juice. Growers can use this table as a guide to when fruit is ready for harvest. Varieties highlighted in orange indicate the variety is ready for harvest on December 15 or prior. Varieties highlighted in green indicate fruit have not yet achieved the desired TSS or TSS/TA ratio and will be ready for harvest after December 15. This data can help growers know when to harvest these varieties for optimal quality. This information is important in Georgia because citrus fruit can freeze on the tree at 28 degrees and fruit that matures later. Evaluating Fruit Quality of Citrus Varieties in Georgia shows photos of each of the 29 varieties.
4-H Youth Development
Summary: Lowndes County 4-H'ers "Service to Ukraine" project resulted in over a thousand letters written by students in the Lowndes County and Valdosta City schools, UGA Extension offices, and a special partnership with students in New York City looking to send American compassion to Ukrainian troops. Through a combined effort between UGA Cooperative Extension and Georgia 4-H, Lowndes County 4-H hosted a letter-writing and bracelet-making campaign for community members to broaden the impact of the project.
Situation: The Russian-Ukrainian conflict began in February 2022 resulting in significant destruction in Ukraine. BBC News wrote on March 21, 2022, “The invasion has likely resulted in tens of thousands of deaths on both sides with around 7.5 million Ukrainians fleeing the country and a third of the population displaced.” Helen Keller once said, “Alone, we can do so little; together we can do so much”. In an effort to live out this quote and to show generosity through a service project, Lowndes County 4-H led a project for to all of Extension and local schools to help lift the hearts and morale of the Ukrainian troops.
Response: Lowndes County 4-H staff and students gathered to discuss how to act during this time. This resulted in the planning and implementation of a letter-writing campaign to support Ukrainian troops. State and national partners joined together for the service project. Lowndes County 4-H’ers gathered support from over 500 students and adults in the Valdosta area. Students at in-school club meetings and community members contributed by writing heartfelt letters and making bracelets. Each bracelet was made up of seven colored beads. Every bead that was placed on the bracelet represented unity: red, white, and blue beads to represent the American flag, green and white beads to represent Georgia 4-H, and yellow and light blue beads to represent the Ukrainian flag. During the community service day held at the 4-H office, twenty 4-H’ers attended and completed 110 letters along with bracelets. Fifteen additional counties in Georgia contributed to the project during 4-H Senior Conference at the Rock Eagle 4-H Center. A sophomore student – Joseph - from Long Island, NY saw a post about the service project on the Lowndes County 4-H Facebook page and wanted to participate. This cello major in Juilliard’s pre-college program is the president of the “Open Hearts Origami” club (OHO). Joseph’s mom reached out via email and stated, “When the R-U war started, Joseph wanted to do something with his club and friends for Ukraine in a meaningful way. He completed research and found the 4-H letter drive. Once he got permission from his high school, all the club members spent a month to create 160 Open Heart Origami card letters for Ukraine.” Lowndes County 4-H also worked with Representative Austin Scott’s office to manage the shipment of packages for safe arrival in Ukraine.
Impact: The 4-H’ers who helped lead this project discussed the impact it had on their world view and understanding of current events. Lowndes 4-H’er, Lily Hayward shared, “This project meant a lot to me because I was following the conflict and wanted to find some way to contribute. Doing this project was important because students usually can’t contribute financially, but we can contribute to morale, and we want to help Ukraine on their journey to figure it out.” Lowndes 4-H not only received packages of letters and bracelets, but also reassuring emails from other county Extension offices. One quote from the Chatham County Extension Coordinator demonstrated the impact of the project. His email stated, “I like this idea. When I was deployed these little notes and small things I could carry with me meant a lot. I used to carry them on a mission then send them back to the student with a note thanking them and letting them know their trinket went with me on a combat mission.” Lowndes 4-H established a unique partnership with the “Open Hearts Origami” Club lead by Joseph from Long Island, NY. During Georgia 4-H State Council, Lowndes 4-H hosted another community service project to return the favor to Joseph’s club by contributing over 500 origami hearts with motivational quotes inside them from counties and 4-H’ers across Georgia. COVID-19 has impacted the mental health of millions of Americans. Through this collaborative effort, Georgia 4-H'ers had the unique opportunity to uplift individuals in New York. The OHO club gave Lowndes County 4-H and all of Georgia 4-H a shout out on their website for creating over 500 origami heart for their service projects. After watching an Extension zoom, I realized the community and Georgia 4-H can make a greater impact together. The Lowndes County 4-H Ukraine Service project will be available in the future to Georgia 4-H and Extension CAES publications.