VOL. 25, NO. 6
IN THIS ISSUE:
The Not Unexpected
A couple of weeks ago, an incident occurred that should provide a wakeup call for everybody with any interest in citrus in south Texas. It seems that a relative of a Valley resident was moving back to the Valley from south Florida—and brought along a potted Mexican lime tree. The tree was offloaded onto the carport of the Valley resident, who noticed it the next morning and recognized immediately that this was an illegal importation of a citrus tree from Florida into Texas.
Thankfully, the resident called me and I relayed the information to the Texas Department of Agriculture office in San Juan and to others. Within short order, personnel from TDA and the Citrus Center went to the location, collected psyllid and tissue samples, double bagged and sprayed the tree for subsequent destruction. APHIS-PPQ personnel were also present.
Both nymphs and adults were collected from the tree, as were ACP present in citrus trees growing on the property. All samples tested at the Citrus Center were negative for greening; I have not heard of the results of companion samples sent to Beltsville. While on site, CC personnel also sprayed the several citrus trees growing at the residence for ACP.
The negative tests of the tissue are not necessarily cause for relief, as we know that it is difficult to get a PCR positive on asymptomatic trees, i.e., the best chances for PCR testing come from trees that are displaying some of the symptoms of the disease. Nonetheless, the ACP, including nymphs, still present on the tree when the various personnel arrived also tested negative for the bacterium—which is really great news, as later stage nymphs can acquire the bacterium from an infected tree.
Concern that some ACP adults may have left the tree at first light before regulatory personnel arrived is real, but it is generally believed that adult ACP will not normally fly past a citrus tree to get to another citrus tree further away—and ACP collected from the other trees at the residence also tested negative. Additional ACP trapping and testing as well as additional scouting for greening will likely be continued at the site.
We have long been expecting the illegal importation of citrus (and its diseases) from Florida and/or other locations, generally by someone who doesn’t know that it is illegal to do so nor the risks associated with such action. Fortunately, we may have gotten lucky this time—thanks to the prompt notification by the resident and actions of the various regulatory agencies and personnel.
Unfortunately, this probably wasn’t the first time citrus trees have been brought into the state, nor will it likely be the last. As Pogo said many years ago, “we have met the enemy and he is us”.
I have suggested a conference between the agencies involved in this incident to review the protocols that were followed to be sure that we took the proper steps in the proper order to contain this potential threat. Chances are, it will happen again.
The 2010-11 season ended at the end of April. For the season, total grapefruit production was up 8.4 percent, but fresh grapefruit shipments were down 3.8 percent in comparison to the previous season. Total orange production was up 19.5 percent, and total fresh shipments were up 13.7 percent from the previous season. Ironically, the November-December seven-week self-imposed moratorium on fresh shipments of Texas citrus into California appears to have had a greater impact on fresh grapefruit sales volume than on oranges—though both obviously suffered. It is still somewhat surprising to note that although ours is a fresh-based industry, only about 52.3 percent of our grapefruit production went fresh, compared to 84.3 percent of our orange production.
All that’s left now is to figure out how returns compared to prior seasons. The simplest way to do that is to divide the total dollars received from all pools and divide that by the total tons produced in all pools to get a net dollars per ton value for all production. In many cases, that value may be somewhat lower than expected. Blame it on the moratorium—fresh prices dropped in the critical pre-Christmas period because of trying to sell more fruit into non-California markets, and prices did not rebound substantially once we resumed shipments into California.
CBS and SOS
According to reports by Megan Dewdney of Lake Alfred, as cited by Tim Gaver in his Treasure Coast Citrus Notes of May, 2011, citrus black spot continues in Collier and Hendry Counties, with detections being a little higher than they were in 2010. In addition, sweet orange scab has been confirmed in 11 Florida counties. Only two detections have been in commercial groves (Sarasota and Indian River Counties), with the other nine counties being limited to detections on dooryard trees.
Thieves Using New Technology
In another report from Tim Gaver, St. Lucie County Extension Agent-Citrus, agricultural theft has gone high tech. Apparently, theft of agricultural pesticides has reached a level similar to that of car theft rings in which the thieves know which pesticides are the most valuable and in the most demand and they are even stealing “on demand” now, i.e., to satisfy particular customers.
Thieves are using Google Earth to look for unsecured access points and for alternate escape routes, and some use police scanners to keep track of law enforcement. Cell phone use is obvious, most likely the untraceable throw-away types that you can buy at most convenience stores. Locks and fences aren’t always good enough to stop bolt cutters; small portable torches that can quickly cut through a padlock or chain are readily available at building supply stores.
Suggestions to growers include the use of Google Earth to locate groves and storage buildings to check for access and egress points and consider closing or restricting them. It is a good idea to order only as much pesticide as you can use in a couple of days, and to restrict access to pesticide storage facilities to only those people who need access. All facilities should be securely locked.
Vehicular theft is still a major problem in south Texas, so it might be a good idea to put a heavy-duty ClubTM on trucks left at headquarters when no one is around. Truck wheels are another hot item lately, especially of Suburbans and the like. A few tractors have gone missing in the last few months, too.
Aside from better security at headquarters (wireless cameras and alarm systems, for example), every grower should have a complete and accurate inventory of equipment, along with model numbers, serial numbers, et cetera. Some go to the extra trouble to stamp personal ID numbers/letters in an out-of-the-way place on the equipment. It is a good idea to take digital pictures of all equipment—from several angles. Think of the pictures this way—you know what your tractor or other piece of equipment looks like, but investigating law enforcement personnel and insurance claims adjusters probably do not.
I don’t know how it interacts with insurance coverage, but there are vehicle recovery services that appear to be rather good at quickly locating a missing vehicle, using GPS and wireless technology. The best I could figure, one such service only cost a few hundred dollars to buy, with a low extension fee every couple of years. It is available for cars, trucks, off-road equipment and a lot of other movable stuff.
And the Dry Weather Continues
Parts of south Texas got some rain in mid-May, with probably no more than a third of an inch in most parts of the Valley, a little more up in the ranch country to the north. Many areas barely got a sprinkle. I don’t recall a significant rainfall event since back in January, but who’s counting.
Given the extremely long period without rain, rust mites may have gone into hibernation, as no one seems to be reporting much activity. Still, populations should not be taken for granted, as they can increase in dry weather and will literally explode with the first good rain event.
I have seen precious little fruit drop over the last couple of weeks, but there was enough that it is clear that the final fruit drop period has indeed ended. The light drop may be due to a lower overall fruit set, as some growers suggest. In any case, what’s there now will mostly be there at harvest.
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 IS IMPLIED.
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