|IN THIS ISSUE:
THE WATER MEETING?
All of the meetings and all of the rhetoric about the water situation-especially leading up to the much-heralded meeting between President Bush and Presidente Fox in Monterrey on March 22, has not provided any additional water from Mexico. The water debt issue was off-again-on-again as an agenda item for their conference.
The late news out of Monterrey was that water was not discussed, but a White House official, on condition of anonymity, claimed that it was. Governor Perry is awaiting a debriefing from the White House before he comments about the deal-or lack thereof.
Regarding the Bush-Fox conference, most of us expected only a token amount of water from Mexico so as to defuse the current pressure being exerted by Texas officials, growers and local members of Congress. To date, nothing has occurred, everybody is waiting on the White House to tell us what the two presidents might have discussed and/or agreed to, if anything.
Naturally, Mexican water officials claim there is insufficient water in the numerous reservoirs in northern Mexico to repay the debt. According to Carlos Rubinstein, Rio Grande Watermaster of TNRCC, Mexico currently has about 1.7 million acre feet in interior reservoirs and another quarter million in the two international reservoirs of Falcon and Amistad. He also indicated that losses in transit (from Chihuahua) could amount to nearly one-third of any volume released down the Rio Concho.
Unfortunately, most of the rhetoric about the debt involves total repayment before October, in accordance with the terms of the treaty. Given the numbers above, including losses in transit, there is no way that the debt can be satisfied in toto and/or leave any water for Mexico. Being realistic about the situation, perhaps U.S. and Texas officials should be pushing for a timely, scheduled repayment program that would provide at least a minimum of a quarter of a million acre feet annually on the debt in addition to the treaty-designated 350,000 acre feet annually. Too, it would be nice to stipulate that such water be provided before March of each year so that growers can plan their season with reasonable expectation of at least that much water for irrigation use.
Finally, for those of us who have looked to a hurricane to refill the reservoirs and solve the problem, Carlos Rubinstein pointed out that such event is less likely than in the past. The main reason is that Mexican impoundments have a capacity of about 10 million acre feet, but only about 1.7 million acre feet of water in them. In other words, those impoundments can take another 8 plus million acre feet before water would spill downstream to the Rio Grande. Thus, a dam-filling storm would have to stay fairly close to the river for the runoff to occur downstream of Mexico's impoundments and/or in unnamed tributaries-which pretty well limits our hopes to an Atlantic or Gulf storm to provide significant relief.
According to the Texas Valley Citrus Committee Utilization Report through March 16, Texas has shipped 84.9 as much fruit as we shipped during all of last season and you'll recall that last season went into June. Generally, fresh movement this season is up 9.0 percent over last season. Regardless of these numbers, our season is far from over?and appears headed into June again.
If you regularly use the TVCC reports to see how the current season is going in relation to last, one caveat is in order. The "percent remaining" data are based on the crop estimate-as they should be for the current season. When utilization exceeds the estimate, you get negative numbers for both remaining supply and percent remaining.
When you look at the current data for grapefruit, the 45.9 percent of the crop estimate remaining looks pretty bleak in comparison to last season (30.5 percent remaining), but it isn't quite that bad. Remember the percent remaining is calculated on the estimated volume. In other words, 30.5 percent of the estimated 13,000 carlot equivalents remained in mid-March of last season. But, because the final grapefruit harvest totaled 14,278 carlot equivalents, the actual percent remaining was 36.7 percent of supply. Thus, the percent remaining for the two seasons is a lot closer than the numbers shown. Too, if some of us are right that the current estimate is still too high, then it begins to look even better.
Note also that TVCC has now included the volume of fruit that was dumped-primarily the grapefruit eliminations prior to January. The quantity was about 6400 tons, for those who wondered.
Back to fresh movement?there is absolutely no doubt that Texas will easily surpass 10 million cartons this season. My records don't go back far enough to tell if that?s a record?but I do know that we haven't reached the 10 million mark in the last 20 years. So congrats to all in the Texas citrus industry.
Conditions remain dry and mostly windy. Cool/cold fronts continue to move through, which means that it gets warm and windy for a couple of days or so, then cool and windy (from the other direction) for another couple of days or so. Both the dry conditions and generally cooler weather have slowed bloom development substantially. Navel oranges generally didn't peak until early March (about two weeks late), with bloom of other oranges following navels about a week. Grapefruit bloom generally was about a week late?although some growers claim that their Rios bloomed out two weeks ago.
Given the generally later bloom in grapefruit this season, one should expect to see an increase in the number of sheepnosed fruit come harvest time. According to theory, climate during pre-bloom through fruit set determines the number of sheepnosed fruit, while production inputs determine the severity of sheepnosing. Thus, about the only way to attenuate its severity is to manage the grove for less vigorous growth. About the only things the grower can control are nutrition (i.e., lower nitrogen fertilization rates) and irrigation. Given the water supply situation, reduced irrigation does not appear to be an option-it's a given.
The citrus IPM program is still accepting enrollments for the season, and scouting normally gets underway in the next two weeks. Call Dr. Juan Anciso at 956/383-1026 to discuss the program and/or sign up.
As fruit set progresses, you'll need to start monitoring for pests, especially citrus rust mite. Post-bloom sprays normally start in April and I don't foresee a significant delay in orchard pest development, despite the later bloom.
Back to water?the most critical time to avoid water stress is during pre-bloom through May, as that is when fruit set is determined. Consequently, water should be applied when the trees need it and coordinated with the application of TemikŪ if it's in your production plan for this season. In other words, if you have water, use it when your trees need it-then hope for rain or a milagro from Chihuahua.
Florida Governor Jeb Bush recently signed into law the protocol to allow the state to destroy all citrus trees within 1900 feet of any citrus tree infected with the citrus canker bacterium. However, Broward County has filed suit against the state challenging the law, and Dade County was expected to join the suit shortly.
In a victory for California, lemons from Argentina will not be allowed into the U.S. during the current season and possibly not even in 2003. Basically, a federal district court in Fresno, CA, invalidated the USDA's "systems approach" that allowed importation of Argentine lemons, and it chided APHIS for poorly defining "negligible risk" regarding the potential introduction of citrus pests and/or diseases from Argentina. Basically, either a USDA appeal of the ruling or new rules by APHIS will take about a year-so the June to October season for Argentine lemons is history for the current year.
And in both states, a tariff fight is brewing over orange juice. Florida has imposed a tariff on offshore orange juice imported into Florida for the last 30 plus years, but did not impose the same tax on juice from California or other states. Recently, a Florida judge struck down the tax on imported juice in a suit filed by processors/importers because it was not applied equally to all orange juice imported into Florida. Florida is now considering legislation to also tax juice brought in from other states. Naturally, the California industry is considering retaliatory action by imposing its own tax on Florida orange juice brought into California. Complicating factors include potential World Trade Organization sanctions against the U.S., the rules of which bar discrimination against trading partners.
JULIAN W. SAULS, Ph.D.
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