While Florida is known as The Sunshine State, freezing temperatures are not unheard of. The threat of a citrus freeze is ever-present during the winter months, and low temperatures can easily lead to freeze damage in citrus trees. Citrus trees can experience heavy damage to wood, leaves, and fruit when exposed to freezing temperatures, either through a rapid decrease in temperature or an extended duration of freezing temperatures. A recent UF/IFAS Tip of the Week shared tips for citrus growers for identifying and dealing with freeze damage in citrus trees.
Tips for Freeze Damage in Citrus
First and foremost, the article advised Florida citrus growers to utilize the Florida Automated Weather Network to know when freezing temperatures are possible so that practices that can help stop freeze damage before it starts—like micro-sprinkler irrigation—can be used at the right time. Citrus is relatively cold-hardy, but damage to citrus from cold temperatures can occur in some scenarios. Freeze damage in citrus is most likely to occur when there is a rapid decrease in temperatures or when those freezing temperatures stick around for an extended amount of time.
Once freezing temperatures have come and gone, it’s time to look for signs of freeze damage and remedy that damage as much as possible. The tips maintained that growers should mitigate freeze damage by taking the following steps:
- Wait until the spring when the flush is fully expanded and mature to assess damage after a freeze.
- Pruning freeze-damaged branches should take place only after new growth begins and fully develops late in the spring or in the summer.
- The fertilizer rate should be reduced but applied more frequently based on the amount of tree damage until the trees recover to their original canopy size.
- Freeze-damaged trees will lose their leaves; this leads to less transpiration, so the amount of water required should be reduced.
- Assure that weeds are well under control as weeds will compete with citrus trees for water, nutrients, and light, causing undue stress.
- Apply fungicide in May and July to control greasy spot.
Mitigating freeze damage in citrus once it has occurred includes being patient in identifying the extent of the damage done, pruning dead or damaged branches once identified, and helping the trees to avoid stress from disease, pests, and weed competition while meeting the trees’ water and nutrient needs.