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JUNE, 2009       

VOL. 23, NO. 6                                                                             

 

IN THIS ISSUE:

FINAL PRODUCTION
FRESH UTILIZATION
RAINS AT LAST

CURRENT SITUATION
GREENING

FINAL PRODUCTION—

The 2008-09 season is in the books now, so let’s take a quick look back at how the season compared to prior years.  First of all, grapefruit finished at approximately 105.2 percent of the original estimate made in October, but at only about 89.9 percent of the final revision of April 9.  With respect to the 2007-08 season, the total grapefruit crop was down, being only 91.5 percent of the prior season.

Early and mids finished close to the original October estimate (99.2 percent), but well below the April 9 revision (only 83.2 percent).  In comparison to the prior season, this crop was only about 86.1 percent of the prior year. 

Valencias finished at about 79.8 percent of the original October estimate, but 106.0 percent of the April 9 revision.  With relation to the prior season, this season’s Valencias only amounted to about 68.2 percent.

In toto, this season’s final production came in about 3.3 percent above the October estimate, but it was only about 88.7 percent of the production of the 2007-08 season.  You may recall that there was a good deal of disagreement about the extent of the losses to Hurricane Dolly, ranging from less than five percent up to about 20 percent.  It should be remembered that 2007-08 was a “down” season, so 2008-09 should have been an “up” season.  The normal swing is typically about 5-6 percent, so if you factor that into the equation, the actual decline in this year’s production was closer to 17 or 18 percent of what it should have been in a typical “up” season.

In regard to alternate bearing, because of the hurricane losses this season, we now have two consecutive “down” years, with essentially no change in bearing acreage.  This is the second “double down” event in the last couple of decades, so we ought to be due for a couple of “double up” seasons—if you believe in what is commonly referred to as the “Law of Averages”.

FRESH UTILIZATION—


Regardless of the differences between estimated and actual production, one factor that always seems to surprise us every year is the percentage of production which is actually utilized as fresh fruit.  According to Texas Valley Citrus Committee Utilization Reports for the season, only about 56.9 percent of the 2008-09 grapefruit crop was shipped fresh; the balance was processed.  Lest you think that the 2008-09 season was an exception to the norm, fresh grapefruit utilization has averaged 56.9 percent of production over the previous 10 seasons.  In other words, the 2008-09 season was about average in terms of fresh grapefruit utilization.  Oranges, on the other hand, had a fresh utilization of 86.8 percent in 2008-09, versus about 72.4 percent in the previous 10 years.

For an industry that is prides itself on the production of fresh grapefruit, the percentage that actually goes fresh is disappointingly low.  Why is it so low? The usual suspects are mechanical damage due mainly to wind scar, damage due to citrus rust mites and a few other more or less minor (in comparison to rust mites) pests and diseases, sheepnosing, small fruit size and perhaps a few overlarge fruit.  Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot that the grower can do about wind scar, sheepnosing and small fruit.

RAINS AT LAST—


While a bit of rain fell in a few locations a week or so earlier, almost everywhere got some rain over the Memorial Day weekend—roughly seven to seven and a half months after the last significant general precipitation in the Valley.  Indeed, the forecast increasingly includes a (realistic) chance for rain, and June started with significant showers through parts of the Valley (1.25 inches in the Mid-Valley). 

Is there more to come?  Who knows?  June is not an especially rainy month, but one of my mentors long ago suggested that the averages in the Valley were comprised of the extremes—and a lot of rain last summer to fall followed by essentially none for over seven months would qualify for his “extremes”.

CURRENT SITUATION—


Due to the reliance on irrigation water from the Rio Grande for all citrus water needs this season, salts have been tending to accumulate in the root zone.  So far, the amount of rainfall has not been sufficient to provide significant leaching of accumulated salts from the root zone, but it’s a good start. 

With the recent precipitation, don’t be surprised if citrus rust mite populations begin to explode in early June, more so if rains continue, so stay on top of grove scouting to keep ahead of them.  Never lose sight of the fact that rust mite damage is a major cause of grapefruit being diverted to processing and it is one of the few grade-lowering factors that growers can actually do something about.

The major fruit drop periods are over now, so what you see is what you get to pick come harvest time.  Fruit size is getting to the point that it is not so hard to see them now, but I am not inclined to make guesses of production so early in the season.

Some fruit scarring is may have occurred during the Memorial Day weekend and subsequent rains, as a couple of thunderstorms in the mid and lower Valley included a lot of marble-sized hail stones, with some reports of even larger stones.  Hail impacts to fruit are usually not sufficient to cause the fruit to abscise, but small scars now will be much larger when the fruit reaches final size.

GREENING—


Greening has been confirmed in orchards in Belice, Central America (Belice used to be known as British Honduras, for those who might be a bit challenged geographically).  Belice borders both Guatemala and Mexico and is not too distant to Honduras—and all have citrus.  So, the southern overland route to Texas and California through Mexico is now available to the disease, since the psyllid vector is already present in Mexico. 

I have seen no reports of new cases of greening in Louisiana or other southeastern states during May, so no news could be viewed as good news.  Surveys are still in progress in Texas and likely will be for years to come. 

The Huanglongbing (HLB)/Asian Citrus Greening PowerPoint presentation that John DaGraca and I prepared for use with county agents, Master Gardeners and the general public is still not online, as the normal way I post new information on my web site does not result in an acceptable rendition of the slide show.  I have just completed the installation of new software (Camtasia and SnagIt) to facilitate the process, but I haven’t had enough time to play with it to learn how to use it.  Online examples recorded with this software look on a computer browser just like a normal PowerPoint slide show, so stay tuned—maybe it will be up before the summer gets too much older (though I still have to “find” a suitable microphone and record the audio).
  


JULIAN W. SAULS, Ph.D.

Professor & Extension Horticulturist
2401 East Highway 83
Weslaco TX 78596


THE INFORMATION GIVEN HEREIN IS FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. REFERENCE TO COMMERCIAL PRODUCTS OR TRADE NAMES IS MADE WITH THE UNDERSTANDING THAT NO DISCRIMINATION IS INTENDED AND NO ENDORSEMENT BY THE COOPERATIVE EXTENSION SERVICE IS IMPLIED.


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