|IN THIS ISSUE:
FINAL CROP REPORT
According to Texas Valley Citrus Committee, the 2002-03 Texas citrus season concluded with the last fresh shipments of grapefruit during the week of May 17. By most accounts, it has not been a good season for Texas growers.
The total grapefruit crop was 224,600 tons, which was down 6.5 percent from the previous year. While the lower crop should not have been so bad per se, peel coarseness and other problems resulted in a 10.7 percent increase in eliminations. Overall, fresh grapefruit shipments totaled only 81.6 percent of the prior season.
Orange production of 66,003 tons was down 10.4 percent, but fresh movement was down even further at only 78.8 percent of the prior season. The volume of oranges processed was up a staggering 29.5 percent, primarily because of harvesting "direct to juice" in late December and January.
In retrospect, the 2002-03 season started with greater expectation. A slight reduction in overall production led to expectations of larger grapefruit sizes (and better prices). Good rains in September and October impeded harvesting operations, but were generally appreciated for the better good of the crop and the groves. And Florida's crop estimates for both grapefruit and oranges were down substantially. So, what went wrong?
Grapefruit sizes were indeed large-but there was so much large fruit in both Texas and Florida that the market had all of the larger sizes it could handle, so prices fell. Too, despite all the good work, especially in Florida, to correct some of the bad press regarding grapefruit and certain medications, consumers still were reluctant to buy. Obviously, the overall sluggishness of the economy had an impact, also. And in Texas, our beloved Rio Star was battered by the weather, and other factors, manifesting a rind coarseness that would shame even a June-bloom fruit. Severe sheepnosing was also common.
There was a "minor" setback in which a few loads of fruit apparently didn't have the appropriate paperwork to cross into Arizona, causing them to be returned (i.e., likely dumped) or diverted to other buyers (at fire sale prices). Too, shipments to California were curtailed until the problems were resolved. Then, the discovery of five little sapote fruit flies in two locations in the Valley triggered a quarantine that affected a lot of fruit-and cost growers (and taxpayers) a lot of money.
The rains early in the harvest season combined with other factors to result in significant post-harvest decay problems, especially in oranges. Then, complaints from some growers that their early oranges were soft and beginning to drop, combined with sluggish shipments, triggered the decision to harvest "direct to juice". That the orange market picked up after the first of the year was mainly irrelevant, as too much of the remaining crop was already in the juice plant.
Other factors also had an impact on the season-few of which were positive. But, that eternal hope for a better "next year" will have to sustain many growers in the current season, as the returns from the last crop have not been good at all.
RAIN AND OTHER WATER NEWS-
The general lack of rainfall has been good for onion and melon harvests, but very little else. Irrigation has been a never-ending requirement so far this season. The normal Cinco de Mayo rains failed to materialize, and those which did come through last week were very spotty. Even where some of the rains occurred, the amounts were essentially non-significant. The preliminary word is that the watersheds did receive some heavy rains. Given the overall lack of rainfall in the Valley and continued withdrawal from the reservoirs, we'll take whatever we can get in the lakes.
Mexico did belatedly live up to her promise of additional water supplies-but only in part. Yes, the additional water that was promised was provided, but it came from in-storage transfer in the reservoirs rather than as "new" water which was supposed to have been "released" from the Rio Conchos.
According to media reports, a number of Valley irrigation districts should soon be receiving several millions of dollars from NADBank funds to be used for needed infrastructure improvements. Given the plethora of studies that have been done already, hopefully these funds will be used to improve the conservation of water in its conveyance from the river to growers. It shouldn't require a lot of study (fee based or otherwise) to know that dirt canals should either be lined with concrete or replaced with underground pipelines, or that existing concrete canals with extensive cracks (and attendant leakage) should be patched or, better yet, replaced with underground pipelines. That sounds overly simplistic, especially since there is not enough money to do everything-but the emphasis should be on projects which will reduce the amount of water lost in conveyance, not on routine maintenance work nor on a "wish list" of new equipment with all the "bells and whistles".
The signup period for a share of the second $10 million of federal funds that was made available to assist growers who suffered losses because of Mexico's failure to meet its treaty obligations with respect to water delivery is currently underway. If you filed for the first $10 million, your irrigation district should have all of the necessary paperwork and documentation in its computer, but you still have to go into the office to verify and sign. The previous program provided about $21 per acre, with about 478,000 acres applied. While far short of the losses suffered, it was better than nothing.
Work on the vine control project is proceeding, but there is no "magic bullet". Because of past efforts, I made reference in this newsletter to a biological control for milkweed vine that was discovered in Florida and developed by Abbott Labs. As a consequence of the web postings of Valley Citrus Notes, I was contacted by a representative of Encore Technologies, which now makes the product. DeVine is labeled in Florida only, and I am not sure exactly what we have to do to get a label here.
Interestingly, among other responses I received from people who know about DeVine was one from a young lady in Florida who recounted how she helped her family chop up milkweed vines to culture the fungus, which was then distributed in the groves before a commercial preparation was available.
While I hoped to put in a couple of tests next month (which is when DeVine is normally available because it is a biological, it is made to order; you can't just walk in and buy it off the shelf), I was just informed that Encore Technologies is not going to produce DeVine this year because of inadequate pre-sales this year.
Fruit drop is apparently over, as the orchard floor is littered with fallen fruit, most about twice the size of a marble. Remaining fruit are sizing nicely. The set appears variable, with some groves looking good while others appear a little short. In the latter, single fruit rather than clusters appears to be the norm. Essentially, the potential final fruit size has now been established with the termination of cell division within the fruit. From now on until harvest, water and grove care will determine whether the fruit achieves its potential size.
Continued hot and dry is the apparent rule of the day, although June is supposed to be one of our wetter months in terms of rainfall. Irrigation is on-going.
Citrus rust mite problems are also varied some groves have or are receiving
a second miticide application, others are still holding their own. Growers
should not become complacent about periodic checking for populations
these and other mites. Scale will also require monitoring if you do not
plan to use oil for scale control a little later this summer, you have
to hit them when the crawlers are present. For California red scale,
that is usually in June.
JULIAN W. SAULS, Ph.D.
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