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AND THE RAINS CAME
AND THE RAINS CAME-
Believe it or not, our normal September "rainy season" was indeed rainy, as total amounts across the Valley were about a third of total average annual rainfall. The gauges that I check in Weslaco, La Feria and Santa Rosa totaled 8.6, 8.0 and 8.0 inches for the month-all as of September 21. Conditions through the first third of October are still generally favorable, so we could see additional rain in the area. Some inflows into the reservoirs were recorded, with the forecasters calling for considerable rains in the watersheds over the next several days.
The rainfall put a damper on harvest operations, delaying startup until orchards dried out near the end of the month. Fruit trucks are rolling now, though some pretty good thunderstorms moved through at least the mid-Valley on Monday.
As the last month progressed, it became apparent that grapefruit size was really beginning to increase in response to both the rainfall and the somewhat cooler temperatures that prevailed. The fruit will continue to size up to its potential as the season progresses. Regardless of the size that grapefruit ultimately achieves, remember that the potential size was determined at the conclusion of cell division within the fruit back in late May.
OUR WESTERN CONNECTION-
It is no secret that California is a major market for our fresh oranges and grapefruit, but few in the industry were aware of problems that threatened to close that market. Near the end of last season, some Mexican fruit fly larvae were encountered in a box of oranges in a shipment bound from the Valley to California. Naturally and justifiably, California and Arizona immediately closed their borders to Texas citrus.
Fortunately, Texas Citrus Mutual, Texas Produce Association and Texas Department of Agriculture worked diligently with APHIS and the California and Arizona authorities to resolve the problem. The result is some important changes in the Mexfly protocol with which the Texas industry will have to comply in order to maintain this vital western market. The new protocol includes industry responsibility for the application of a Mexfly bait spray to all commercial citrus within 250 meters (a little over 800 feet for the metrically challenged) of each Mexfly find. Too, trucks will have to be sealed during transit.
While some may carp about the changes, the alternative of not being able to ship to California is not acceptable. As of now, this vital market is once again open to Texas citrus.
CITRUS RUST MITES-
As reported last month, these little pests just won't go away. While climatic conditions of the last few weeks have been good for fruit sizing, they have also been good for rust mites. Growers should keep close tabs on population levels within the grove, as it would be a shame to see the efforts of the season go down the drain because of late season rust mite damage. While growers are never really out of the woods with respect to rust mites (remember the December-January infestations of a couple of seasons ago?), late September through October usually marks the end of the problem. We can all remember seasons when a late summer to fall spray was not needed, but I seriously doubt that this is one of those seasons.
OFFICIAL CROP ESTIMATE-
Friday is the big day for the release of the USDA's citrus crop estimate for the 2003-04 season. Although the early estimates from a number of sources are calling for higher production in Florida, and most probably believe the USDA estimate will also be up substantially, that will not prevent literally thousands of growers, especially in Florida, from tuning in Friday morning to hear the numbers first hand. One of the main reasons for such interest is that a substantial deviation from what the industry believes the crop to be at this point can have a dramatic impact on fruit prices, i.e., if the estimate comes in substantially higher than the current consensus, the price of solids, and thus of oranges, will tumble.
Keep in mind that the Florida numbers are the result of intensive, scientifically based, survey and sampling work by the Florida Agricultural Statistics Service. The Texas numbers are not-ours are more or less the consensus of the opinions of a number of Texas industry leaders.
The Lower Rio Grande Valley Irrigation Conference and Trade Show is set for October 28 at the McAllen Civic Center. Registration and the Trade Show open at 7:30, with the program to begin at 8:30. Contact Brad Cowan of Texas Cooperative Extension at his office in Edinburg (956/383-1026) for more information.
The on-going dispute between homeowners and the state of Florida over the citrus canker eradication program will be argued before the Florida Supreme Court, starting today. The crux of the dispute is that homeowners disagree with the 1900-foot rule which requires that all citrus trees within that radius of an infected tree must be cut down, without regard to whether all trees in the designated area are infected or not.
Having followed this dispute for what seems like years, it strikes
me that it wouldn?t make a whole lot of difference if the buffer zone
was only 900 feet instead of 1900. Homeowners have a lot of pride in
their trees and just do not want to see them destroyed for any reason,
especially if they believe that their personal tree or trees are completely
healthy. Consequently, there will always be some people who will resist
the cutting, regardless of any ruling by the Florida Supreme Court, and
those people will simply try a different legal strategy if this one fails.
JULIAN W. SAULS, Ph.D.
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