Some citrus farmers are freezing parts of the plant to create thermal heat. (Source: WALB)
This is a test grove in Mitchell County. (Source: WALB)
Lindy Lavelle is the president of the Georgia Citrus Association. (Source: WALB)
MITCHELL CO., GA (WALB) -
The overnight freezes may be helping citrus farmers in South Georgia, but many growers are still testing ways to protect the trees.
Since it's still early in the season, citrus farmers said the cold weather can be good for the crop.
In Mitchell County, Georgia Citrus Association President Lindy Savelle is testing different ways to protect the base of the tree. She's using a technique some may find quite unique.
"I sent pictures to people and they said, 'Oh that's so pretty'. Yeah it's pretty but it's scary too though," said Savelle as she pointed to trees covered in ice crystals.
Savelle's test grove has 16 rows of about 20 types of citrus. They range from limes, lemons and grapefruit to mandarin oranges.
"Honestly this cold weather is good for citrus in Georgia because it makes for a sweeter fruit," explained Savelle.
Savelle said the idea is to keep the dew point around the trees above freezing.
"So by making ice you are making BTUs and creating heat that keeps the tree itself from freezing," said Savelle.
Savelle is trying to keep well water that is 60 degrees on the tree for the next several days when the temperatures are near freezing. This helps create thermal heat. As long as the tree temperature stays at 32 degrees and above, Savelle said the trees should stay alive.
Water is being fed to each individual tree. But Savelle is experimenting different methods of watering and protecting the tree. She's using arctic bags, tin foil, plastic wrap and even pool noodles to insulate the base of the tree. She's also trying different water spouts.
"This is a 180° micro jet emitter," explained Savelle as she held up one of the spouts. "The idea is to keep this water going on this ice throughout the day. As you can see, it's already starting to melt and fall off."
To the touch of your hand, the water isn't too cold.
As people continue to plant mass amounts of citrus in Georgia, many growers are counting on Savelle to find the best techniques.
"Everyone is saying, 'Are we going to make it?' You know we won't really know until later in the year and probably in the spring, but the idea in the concept of freeze protection through grow blank irrigation says will make it. So this is going to be a true test of the industry," said Savelle.
Savelle planted most of her trees on the test grove in April of 2016. It won't be until October of 2019 when the fruit will be okay to eat and sell.