|IN THIS ISSUE:
Although it may have been a little disappointing to some in the Valley, there was no white Christmas last month. As I explained to my children, if it happened frequently, it wouldn't be novel and unique-and I prefer to be counted among those who saw the only significant snowfall in the Valley in about a century.
The weather was generally what I refer to as dismal/dreary up until Christmas, i.e., cool, damp, cloudy. Then it changed into my favorite kind of weather:mild and sunny, with clear and deep blue skies. A newcomer midst lamented that it was "bizarre" to have 70-degree days and 50-degree nights at Christmas, to which I responded that millions of people living south of the equator enjoy Christmas in the middle of the summer. No, I don't dream of white Christmas, if I wanted those, I would head for cold country, but then I wouldn't be able to "enjoy" growing citrus.
The Florida Ag Statistics Service went back into the groves to reassess the Florida citrus crop in the wake of Hurricane Wilma which swept across south Florida and exited into the Atlantic after passing through the Indian River District. As expected, the 2005-06 crop estimates were reduced because of the loss of fruit.
The orange crop was originally pegged at 190 million 90-pound boxes, but has been lowered as of the December update to 162 million-a loss of approximately 15 percent. The original grapefruit estimate of 24 million 85-pound boxes was reduced to 16 million, a reduction of 33 percent. Obviously, there was more grapefruit in the hurricane's path and grapefruit, being larger, is more prone to being blown off the tree.
The December update did not change for either Texas or California/Arizona citrus.
As of Christmas Eve, total fresh fruit shipments of grapefruit into the domestic market totaled 2.16 million cartons; a whopping 40 percent above the same time last season. Navels, oranges are up about 12 percent and have already surpassed last season's total navel volume. Early oranges are not faring so well, with the current volume at about 93 percent of the prior year. Export grapefruit is also lagging a bit at about 95 percent of last season.
If you are a bit skeptical of the effect of weather on citrus-blemishing pests, doubt no more. It has been said that the weather this season did more to prevent citrus rust mite damage than all of the miticides available to us. Grapefruit PHEs are at about 25 percent of the harvest to date, compared to 32 percent last year; and that's on about 20 percent more grapefruit harvested so far. Orange eliminations are also down, currently running about 17 percent of harvest as compared to 27 percent a year ago. Overall orange volume harvested is down about 12 percent.
If you turn those percentages around, current packouts of all grapefruit harvested to date are averaging 75 percent, with orange packouts averaging about 83 percent.
The Bayer-sponsored program on citrus greening that Dr. Vic French and I attended in Lake Alfred, FL in early December was rather enlightening. This disease is as serious as they say it is. Unfortunately, Florida is faced with trying to live with it because it is already too widespread to attempt eradication.
I made a few contacts while there and visited with several long-time friends and colleagues. I now have a number of digital images of citrus greening and citrus canker from the Division of Plant Industry, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and from Jim Graham that I had requested. Dr. da Graca and I will select several of the best ones to incorporate into a web-based diagnostic guide that we hope will serve to alert our industry and the huge urban sector over in southeast Texas as to the symptoms to look for so that we can successfully keep these diseases out of all of Texas.
The New Year saw the close of the 2005 tropical storm season at last, as anything that occurs from now on is considered to be in the 2006 season. Why mention it? Well, the so-called hurricane season ended back at the first of November, but Tropical System Zeta developed out in the Atlantic around Christmas. As you know, the National Weather Service ran out of names and had to resort to the Greek alphabet for subsequent storms. Zeta is the sixth letter in the Greek alphabet, so 2005 saw six systems more than there were names for.
The Annual Texas Citrus Fiesta kicks off on January 27. For the Youth
Show, exhibits will be entered on Friday, January 27, with judging of
entries starting about 8:00 pm and going until it's all done. The Citrus
Identification and Citrus Fruit Judging contests will be set up that
same evening for competition early Saturday morning. (I am awaiting final
details of any proposed rules changes before I update the Citrus Fiesta
Youth Show information at http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/citrus/fiesta/fiesta.htm,
but there do not appear to be any).
The 60th Annual Meeting of the Rio Grande Valley Horticultural Society is scheduled for January 18 at the Texas A&M University; Kingsville Citrus Center here in Weslaco. Registration starts at 8:00 am and Dr. T.X. Liu will officially open the program at 8:30. The registration fee of $25 ($15 for students) includes membership in the Society for 2006 and the midday lunch.
The first four presentations deal with the Texas citrus industry, Ray Prewett will open with Issues, Challenges and Prospects for the Future; John da Graca will follow with a presentation on Huanglongbing (aka yellow dragon disease, if you can't pronounce huanglongbing; aka citrus greening if you're not into dragons); Vic French will uptake the Diaprepes root weevil situation; and I will follow on what I foresee for the not-to-distant future (meaning almost right now, and hopefully not having to be redacted too much after I hear what Ray discusses).
After a break for refreshments and the opportunity to view the various posters that will be on display, there will be talks about grafting melons (John Jifon), a virus disease of onions (Mark Black from the Uvalde Center) and a new biotype of sweetpotato whitefly (T.X. Liu). The keynote address follows at 11:20, with Mike Gould presenting his Perspectives on Research and Its Impact in the RGV. Dr. Gould is the new Center Director of the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station at Weslaco.
The Potts Award will be presented next, followed by the nomination and
election of officers and other business, then on to lunch. But, that's
not all, folks; Barbara Storz will moderate an evening session that begins
at 6:00 pm, and which is directed toward the urban sector and our Winter
Texans. Kathy Paycheck will talk about tropical fruit trees for the Valley;
Juan Anciso will discuss successful control of Florida wax scale that
is becoming a serious pest of ornamental plants in the Valley, and Barbara
Storz will conclude with a presentation on capturing rainwater for landscape
JULIAN W. SAULS, Ph.D.
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