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At last, I succeeded in developing and posting on-line the diagnostic guides for Asian citrus psyllid, Asian citrus greening and Asian citrus canker. The following links will get you there:
For graciously providing the images, many thanks to the Division of Plant Industry, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services; Dr. Jim Graham, University of Florida IFAS, Lake Alfred; Dr. Ron Brlansky, University of Florida IFAS, Lake Alfred; and Dr. Michael Rogers, University of Florida IFAS, Lake Alfred.
At the TCM Mid-Year meeting held at the Citrus Center last Thursday, Carlos Rubenstein of TCEQ/TNRCC brought us up to date on the status of our water supplies. The good news is that there is ample water in the system to carry us through this year and well into the next. The bad news is that if it doesn't rain anymore in the interim than it has in the last year, we will be in dire straits again in another 18 months or so.
One of the positives that he mentioned is that Mexico has released some water from impoundments on the Rio Concho to flow into the Rio Grande. These releases stem from NAD-Bank funds that Mexico used to upgrade some of its water systems along the Rio Concho, with some of the water savings being designated to be released into the system.
Overall fresh fruit utilization is running around 800,000 cartons above the same time last season as of mid-March and was only about 600,000 cartons behind the season total for last year. Domestic use is about 300,000 shy of last year's total, as is export shipments.
Based on the estimates, only about 15 percent of the grapefruit supply remained in mid-March, less than 2 percent of the early and mids, and about 55 percent of Valencias. Given the activity of the last couple of weeks, those percentages should have dropped substantially.
Indications are that the season could finish as early as mid-April, though it could also linger another week or so. I don't think anyone anticipates having fruit to harvest in May.
The trees are blooming later than normal this season, as there has been bloom and new flush noted in different orchards since the beginning of March. Some groves are just hitting peak bloom while others have pretty much finished. Basically, the winter was mild and soil moisture declined in the absence of light winter rains. Consequently, the trees just were not set up to bloom on schedule; fortunately, they are beginning to catch up now.
From what I have seen and what growers relate, the bloom that has or is occurring is pretty good. Fruit set can be expected to be a little better than last season, if we can keep soil moisture at near-optimal levels for the next couple of months. Increased set is the natural result of a lighter than normal crop in the preceding year-but it takes good soil moisture to sustain maximum fruit set and get the trees through the post-bloom fruit drop periods that run into late May.
Because there has been no significant change in weather patterns from last season, it is likely that citrus rust mites are not yet poised to be a major problem in the foreseeable future. As always, however, rust mites seem to be able to sense a coming change in rainfall patterns, so it pays to be on the lookout for changes in populations before they can reach economically-damaging levels. Traditionally, IPM scouting for citrus rust mites and other pests kicks off in mid-April-and I see no reason to delay the implementation of orchard monitoring.
The other major grove practice for now is irrigation, as you just cannot set a large number of fruit that will have the potential to make larger sizes at harvest without adequate soil moisture during this critical fruit set/fruit drop period.
TEXAS CITRUS HEALTH MEETING-
There is a major program on citrus greening and citrus canker on tap for tomorrow at the TAMU-K Citrus Center and all growers should make every effort to attend.
Dr. Tim Gottwald of the USDA-ARS lab at Fort Pierce, FL will kick it off with an update on the situation with these two diseases in Florida, and will be followed by Pat Gomes of USDA-APHIS-PPQ to provide an overview of the Citrus Health Response Plan (since the feds can?t seem to do anything without an acronym, this program is referred to by its initials-CHRP-and I expect that somebody is already calling it "Chirp" or something similar).
From then until lunch, discussions will focus on citrus canker-regulatory actions, possible responses and other issues. After lunch, the discussion switches to citrus greening, with the same focus.
After a mid-afternoon break, there should be a decision on the necessity of task forces (one for each disease) comprised of citrus industry and regulatory agencies which will likely be charged with the development of recommendations for continued exclusion of these diseases (and others not presently on the radar screen) and action and response plans should either disease be detected in Texas.
Once the task forces are created, they will come back to the Citrus Center on Wednesday to begin discussions that will result in the development of a plan which everyone-TDA, USDA-APHIS-PPQ, the industry, et cetera-will be able to implement in order to prevent the spread of these diseases into Texas and, failing that, provide detection early enough that eradication can be a viable option.
As an added inducement, there will be 6.5 CEUs offered for the Tuesday meeting. It kicks off at 8:00 at the Citrus Center, includes lunch, and is scheduled to adjourn at 4:30.
Yes, I know that's all day, but the issues are too important to ignore.
JULIAN W. SAULS, Ph.D.
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