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The long-awaited citrus crop estimate from the USDA was released on October 12. The pre-Hurricane Wilma estimate for Florida was a total of 190 million (90-pound) boxes of oranges and 24 million (85-pound) boxes of grapefruit. For oranges, the crop is estimated at 93 million boxes of EMs, including navels, and 97 million of Valencias. The grapefruit crop estimate is split into seven million boxes of whites and 17 million boxes of colored grapefruit.
Those estimates will be reduced in the November revision because of fruit loss as Hurricane Wilma tracked across the Gulf District and the lower part of the Indian River district on October 24. Both areas are known for their grapefruit, but they also have quite a lot of orange acreage.
For Texas, the estimate is a total of 216,000 tons of grapefruit and 65,000 tons of oranges. In terms that are quoted by the Texas Valley Citrus Committee in its weekly utilization reports, that should work out to about 10,800 carlot equivalents for grapefruit, 2,600 for EMs and 460 for Valencia. However you want to report it, the Texas crop is forecast to be only about 82 percent of last season for grapefruit and about 87 percent for both EMs and for Valencias. For the most part, you can blame (or bless) the decreases on the Christmas snow and the defoliation and erratic bloom that resulted.
The 2005-06 Texas citrus season got underway at the beginning of October, with the first shipments of earlies, navels and grapefruit being reported for the week ending October 8. Volume in the first report was 61,673 carton equivalents, which picked up to 103,903 carton equivalents in the second full week of October. The increase was entirely due to grapefruit, as orange volume was essentially unchanged from the week before-earlies decreased about 3,000 cartons, but navels increased by a similar amount.
The season was obviously picking up steam by the end of the third week (ending October 22), with some quarter million carton equivalents headed to market. That included over 193,000 cartons of grapefruit, about 28,000 earlies and about 25,000 navels. That brings the season-to-date over 400,000 cartons, which is nearly 9 percent above the same time last season. In addition, eliminations are way down, being only about 20 percent as much for grapefruit and about 25 percent as much for oranges for an equivalent volume of fruit.
This dreaded disease is far more widespread in Florida than expected. To date, there have been over 400 confirmed cases in more than 250 locations in eight counties. The latest discovery was a grapefruit tree on the grounds of the USDA's medfly rearing facility in Sarasota which is on the west side of the Florida Peninsula south of Tampa?a long way from the Dade County initial finds.
It appears that Florida will have to learn to live with this disease, as do growers in South Africa and other places where it exists. It has been there longer than anticipated, is more widespread than one could believe, is difficult to detect visually and not exactly easy to detect analytically-and it is spread by the psyllid which is now literally everywhere and has a number of alternate hosts.
UNFOUNDED RUMORS OF GREENING IN TEXAS-
I'm not sure how or why it happened, but the discovery of misshapen fruit and chlorotic leaves with yellow veins on a grapefruit tree in a local orchard was taken as evidence of the possible presence of citrus greening in Texas citrus. According to Dr. John da Graca, the discovery was limited to a single tree within the orchard. In addition, the suspect tree was also badly infected with Phytophthora foot rot (gummosis) lesions (which would readily explain the chlorosis, especially the vein clearing that was observed on the sample).
Initial samples were sent to Beltsville, MD for testing, but the lab reportedly needed fresher samples-which were then collected and sent. With the Texas industry hanging in suspense for over a week, it was announced this week that the tested samples are not infected with the citrus greening bacterium. (And that's why this newsletter has been delayed-I waited until the test results were known.)
Dr. DaGraca is a member of an advisory panel, which includes scientists from Florida, California, Texas, and various groups within USDA, that meets frequently via teleconference to discuss the citrus greening problem and courses of action. He will also be attending an international symposium on canker and greening in Orlando next week.
Not all trees that are suspected of greening have it-most of the symptoms can be easily confused with nutritional problems (and foot rot). In Florida's experience to date, only about one in seven suspect trees actually have the disease.
We should pay close attention to the greening situation and to how Florida endeavors to cope with it, as the Asian citrus psyllid vector has been in the Valley for the last couple of years. No one seems to know exactly how it got here, but most seem certain that it was somehow inadvertently introduced from Florida
The best we can hope for is that greening is not already somewhere in Texas and that we can keep it that way, as exclusion is still the first, best line of defense. In that light and through the cooperative efforts of USDA and the Texas A&M University-Kingsville Citrus Center, some special funding is being made available to gear up to survey for the disease in Texas, and for the preliminary laboratory screening that is necessary for diagnosis of suspect samples. Everything should be in place and ready to go by the first of the year.
Irrespective of the results of the survey work, I think it behooves us to commence serious efforts to try to manage and control the psyllid vector, in groves and in dooryard trees, and not just here in the Valley. The reason is rather simple, because Florida will not be able to eradicate the disease, the possibility of its inadvertent introduction into Texas will always exist. Other countries live with citrus greening by intensive control of the psyllid vector?coupled with other means of suppression and control, including tree destruction to reduce sources of the bacterium.
We need the survey work from here to the Sabine River to assure current and continued freedom from the disease. In addition, management of the psyllid will go a long ways towards continued exclusion of greening, as well as possible containment and eradication should it ultimately appear. At the present time, we don't even know if the psyllid is present in southeast Texas, which is a common gateway by which some citrus pests and diseases have made their way into the Valley.
Working with Dr. da Graca, Dr. French and others, we are putting together a series of digital images of the greening symptoms and of the citrus psyllid (and citrus canker symptoms, while we're at it). The images will be posted in a special section of the Aggie Horticulture website (and others) to alert the general public, County Extension personnel and Master Gardener coordinators and volunteers to the symptoms of these diseases, as well as to the consequences of their introduction into Texas citrus.
In addition, some of us will be attending a special one-day seminar on December 6 in Lake Alfred, FL, in which various experts will discuss the means to develop an integrated approach to the management of citrus greening and its psyllid vector.
The triple digit temperatures of late September finally gave way as the season?s first cold front blew through the Valley in early October. Since then, a couple more fronts have moved through, keeping temperatures on the cooler side and also kicking off a couple of decent rains. Indeed, it was a cold front which pushed Hurricane Wilma's track across Florida a little further south than might have otherwise been the case.
Reservoir levels are the highest in recent years, but still far from being full. The US share of waters is close to conservation level, while Mexico's share has increased to just over 40 percent of conservation level.
Given the fact that rainfall in September was significantly lower than normal, as it has been most of the year, methinks it may have been a bit premature of some folks to declare last spring that the drought was over. The last time I checked, rainfall amounts at all reporting stations in the Valley were several inches below normal for the year. If the long drought was really over back then, it didn't take long to start a new one.
California's navels are coming in a little earlier than initially expected, and will be in full swing by mid-November. Meanwhile, the Valencia crop is tailing off and should be pretty well finished by mid to late November.
EARLY DAMANGE REPORTS-
Florida Citrus Mutual has assessed the damages from Hurricane Wilma,
estimating that nearly 36 million boxes of fruit were lost. Mutual's
numbers include about 25 million boxes of oranges and 11 million of grapefruit
that fell to the storm's fury. If these estimates are close, the Florida
orange crop will be close to 165 million boxes total, while grapefruit
will go from 24 million down to about 13 million. Since the impacted
areas are noted for colored grapefruit, those may have taken the biggest
fall, as colored grapefruit accounted for about 71 percent of the original
JULIAN W. SAULS, Ph.D.
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