Thomas County Citrus Tree Nursery Growing Certified Trees, Georgia Citrus Industry

Ochlocknee, GA

Two years ago, this greenhouse full of young citrus trees was just a dream for Lindy Savelle, Owner of Georgia Grown Citrus here in Thomas County. However, as you can see, that dream has now flourished into a reality; one in which Savelle grows a variety of different citrus trees designed to be more vigorous and suitable in colder climates.

“To be successful in Georgia, you really need to have a tree on a cold hardy rootstock,” says Savelle. “If you buy it from someplace else, it may not even be on a rootstock. It might just be grown from a clipping or it might be on a rootstock that is an aggressive grower and less cold hardy. So that’s the first thing. You want to have a rootstock that’s cold hardy in nature and then it has to come from a certified rootstock seed. Then, the next thing is our trees are budded, very similar to grafting, but it’s a bud being placed on the rootstock, and that needs to come from a certified mother tree, or a scion tree.”

Not only are Savelle’s seeds and root stocks USDA certified, so is her greenhouse, which means all of their trees are kept in a disease-free environment and are tested before they are allowed to sell them.

“We have people in neighboring states; Alabama, Mississippi, that drive all the way here to purchase trees, but also, we ship trees throughout the US. We’ve shipped to Maine, to Washington and down,” says Savelle. “So, in order to ship outside the state, you have to be USDA certified, but what that actually means to the consumer is that the trees are tested twice a year and the facility itself is inspected once a month. Which, if you’re looking for a citrus tree, you want it to be one that’s grown in an environment that is close to being disease-free as, as you can get it and that’s what we’re striving for, is disease free trees.”

According to Savelle, the importance of greenhouse nurseries like this one with disease tested and free trees can’t be overstated, as citrus is very susceptible to disease and an outbreak could be detrimental to the state’s citrus Industry.

“Florida, our sister state, has lost eighty percent of its production due to disease, primarily citrus greening, which is a devastating disease. It oftentimes takes about five years for that disease to surface where you know something’s wrong with that tree,” says Savelle. “We have a commercial industry now in Georgia of citrus, and we’ve got half a million trees in the ground and a hundred and fifty plus growers who are planting this for a commercial production. So, it’s so important that we protect their investment, our investment. We also have a commercial growth as well. So, you’ve put out a lot of money, you want to protect it from disease. Citrus is one of the highest disease potential commodities that there is.”

By: John Holcomb