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The current season is winding down at last. Valencia harvest should be done within a week or so, and early and mids should have finished already. Grapefruit supply was down to about 16 percent remaining (of the estimate) as of March 26. If the current rate of harvest continues through April, the season should end by early to mid-May.
Movement of oranges is ahead of last season in early and mids and navels, but Valencias are a little behind. Despite the dwindling supply of grapefruit, fresh movement has not caught up to last year's volume being just under a million cartons behind. Export and gift shipments of fresh grapefruit are still in the neighborhood of about 3.5 times last year's volume; but domestic shipments are in the area of 1.5 million cartons behind last season. Even if all of the remaining grapefruit were to go fresh, which just cannot happen, the final utilization in the domestic market would still finish below last season's 6.4 million cartons.
This is not normally a topic for April, but this isn't a normal season.
Indications were that navels and round oranges were blooming around the
end of February and into March, which suggested that grapefruit bloom
would also be on schedule by mid-March. I was out of town for the first
two weeks of March, so I expected to find grapefruit in full bloom when
I returned. It hasn't happened quite like I expected.
Certainly, one could have expected some bloom problems with grapefruit, given that many grapefruit orchards underwent fairly heavy defoliation after the Christmas snow, but the current state of bloom and set is not readily explicable. Trees that have not yet bloomed probably will in the next two weeks, based on what is happening in some of the oranges. The lateness of the bloom is of major concern, as the severity of sheepnosing appears to be positively correlated with the time of bloom.
According to recent reports, Mexico has transferred another large volume of water that was already in storage in the two reservoirs to the U.S. in an effort to further reduce its long-standing debt. That brought the U.S. share of stored waters very close to Conservation Level. In addition, Mexico has indicated that it plans to repay the entire shortfall by September.
So, the water supply issue is not currently a major concern, though it should be. Any area which must depend on the vagaries of nature and compliance with the International Water Treaty should always be concerned about water, as the situation can go from plentiful to crisis in such a short time. Most of us weren't paying much attention to the water situation in 1998, until irrigation districts began shutting down their pumps in late June and July.
I hate to keep mentioning it, but Florida's citrus canker problem is just not going away. Additional discoveries have continued almost unabated, resulting in substantial additional acreages being pushed and burned. According to one report, the fund which has been used to pay growers (and homeowners) for their lost trees is about depleted.
Fortunately, the Florida Legislature has reauthorized the eradication protocol, by unanimous vote in the Florida Senate, and with only 8 dissenting votes in the Florida House of Representatives. Florida Governor Jeb Bush is expected to sign the legislation when it reaches his desk. In case you didn't know, the legislation under which current efforts were authorized was scheduled for sunset in June of this year.
Post-bloom pest control applications are still pending in many groves, since they haven't reached the "post-bloom" stage yet. All I can suggest is to stay on top of the situation, as weather conditions can radically impact citrus rust mite populations. Normally, rust mites begin to move from the twigs to the developing fruit by now-but some groves don't have developing fruit as yet. It would be nice to think that they might starve to death waiting for the fruit to come, but I don't think it works that way.
When was the last time you had a significant rain? It has been too long already. Irrigation is of major importance right now, as adequate soil moisture during the entire flowering and fruit set cycle is the most critical factor that determines how much fruit will be set and how large it can ultimately become.
JULIAN W. SAULS, Ph.D.
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