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SPRING AT LAST
If you are counting on navel oranges to let you know that spring has arrived, you are likely still waiting. Navels traditionally begin to bloom soon after mid-February, but not so this year. Given that navels are running late, as are round oranges, one can only wait and see if grapefruit will also be late. As you know, Rio Red has excellent fruit shape this season-but a later than normal bloom could result in problems with sheepnosing in the coming crop.
Despite the reluctance of the spring flush and bloom to start this season, many of the other harbingers of spring in the Valley attest that it is time. Spanish dagger, Texas mountain laurel, huisache, and others are blooming; ash trees have really greened up with emerging leaves in the last week. Robins may be the traditional sign of spring in other parts of the country, but not so in the Valley. They are not terribly common in the Valley, nor have I seen any this year.
Reports from the International Boundary and Water Commission and the Rio Grande Watermaster's office indicate that the current supply of water in the reservoirs is better than it has been since 1995. The U. S. share is just over 57 percent of conservation level, while the Mexico share is just over 32 percent. Combined capacity is also at just over 57 percent. That the combined level is the same numeric percentage as the U. S. share is curious, but merely coincidental.
February brought very little in the way of rainfall, but then it rarely does. Irrigation demand is about to go up dramatically as Valley farmers begin the new season. Winter vegetables are still around, as are spring onions and melons. Corn is emerging, while grain and cotton are either being planted or are about to be. Plant cane and ratoon cane on already-harvested fields will also begin to need water soon. Citrus, of course, will require water to incorporate fertilizer and herbicide (as well as the obvious need to support growth of the spring flush and set of the new crop).
Bayer Crop Science is holding a grower meeting tomorrow at Cimarron to report the results of a multi-year study by Drs. Victor French and Mani Skaria of TemikŪ in Texas citrus. There will also be discussion of overall citrus pest management and an update on new pesticide products.
The meeting is scheduled to commence at 11:45, but given the ongoing traffic problems as a consequence of Expressway construction in the area, I suggest you allow 10 to 15 minutes extra to get there. If you should get lucky and arrive early, you can always use the extra minutes to visit with other growers about the coming season.
Although the new bloom is soon to be upon us, we still have a crop to finish. Fortunately, movement has continued to show strength since the first of the year. Total Texas fresh fruit shipments are at 77.75 percent of last season's final, and up 3.40 percent over the same period a year ago.
Fresh grapefruit shipments are up 3.96 percent, while the processed volume is 32.34 percent below last season. Early and mids are up 4.67 percent, but navels are down 10.11 percent as of February 21. All oranges diverted to processing are up 9.16 percent.
There have been no changes in the Texas crop estimate for the year-nor does anyone expect there to be until very near the completion of the season. In Florida, however, droppage and fruit size factors combined to cause another reduction in the estimated orange volume-now pegged at 246 million boxes-all in the early and mid varieties, as the Valencia forecast has not changed. The Florida grapefruit estimates are unchanged from last month at 40 million boxes, of which 24 million is pigmented varieties.
The USDA will release updated forecasts on March 10, April 8, May 12, June 11 and July 12. Most in the Texas industry are hoping that our harvest is completed in May, so there are still a couple of opportunities for the Texas forecasts to be altered.
Fertilizer applications should be complete by now, but spring herbicide applications can run on for a couple of months more. Post bloom pest control operations will likely be concentrated in April, inasmuch as orange bloom is off to a late start this season-and we still don't know if grapefruit will also be late.
Nobody has mentioned blackfly to me in the last month, so I hope that means that growers are collecting leaves and redistributing them in efforts to spread the parasites around to let them bring blackfly populations under biological control. Where it is a problem (and in neighboring groves!), however, I would urge growers to revisit last month?s newsletter before making decisions about which materials to consider for the post bloom spray-as it makes absolutely no sense to use a post bloom material that will exacerbate the blackfly problem by killing its predators.
Because the citrus and vegetable IPM position (vacated when Dr. Juan Anciso moved into the vegetable specialist slot at Weslaco a year or so ago) has still not been filled, the citrus IPM scouting program will not be available again this season. As you may recall, this program is a cooperative one between Texas Cooperative Extension and the Texas Pest Management Association.
RETIRED-BUT NOT REALLY-
John Norman retired in January from the position of cotton IPM agent in the Valley after nearly three decades of service to the cotton industry. While he did not interact much with citrus growers, why bring it up here?
The word is that after a month or two of R & R, John will return to the Weslaco Center in a part time capacity in the position of Extension Entomologist that was vacated when Dr. Stormy Sparks resigned to return to his native Georgia. So, Vic French can look forward to a little help with citrus entomology. Just bear in mind, however, that John?s return is at just under half time, and he will have responsibilities for all Valley and South Texas crops and entomological considerations-and that?s a lot of responsibility for one person working less than half time.
The Texas Citrus Mutual Mid-Year meeting (I have always thought it should be called the TCM Spring meeting-but what do I know) is on tap for March 26, so mark your calendar. The program is not finalized as yet, so I cannot relate what topics and which speakers will be included, but if past years are any indication, this one should also be a major opportunity for Texas growers to be updated with a lot of good information-plus a couple of CEU's.
You do not have to be a member of Mutual to attend the meeting and receive any CEU?s that are offered-but registration fees are a tad higher for non-members. Contact the TCM office in Mission for more information about the spring meeting and about membership.
JULIAN W. SAULS, Ph.D.
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