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PESTICIDES AND FOOD - FQPA
PESTICIDES AND FOOD - FQPA-
The EPA's long-promised brochure "Pesticides and Food, What you and your family need to know" has apparently been completed and sent to retailers for display. With only some 40,000 copies initially published, you aren't likely to get one-so you go on-line to www.epa.gov/ pesticides/food to "read all about it".
Both navels and early-mids have concluded for the season. Navel shipments were down 6.1 percent from the prior season, while early-mids finished 7.6 percent over last season. Navels and early-mids diverted to processing was down to about 62 percent of the volume processed a year ago. While fresh shipments were up and processed utilization was down-the overall navel and early-mid crop declined about 6.3% from 1997-98.
Fresh Valencia shipments are down about 14 percent while processed utilization is very high, bringing total utilization up by some 50 percent or more. Obviously, the remaining supply is quite low.
Grapefruit is still running ahead of last season, about 10.3 percent more in fresh market channels and nearly 20 percent more diverted to processing.
Prices have been very good for Texas oranges and Rio grapefruit-but I haven't seen any f.o.b. quotes on Texas Ruby-Sweet grapefruit for quite some time. Given that information, it is somewhat surprising to see that Florida's red grapefruit (which is mostly Ruby or Redblush and Pink Marsh) are bringing prices close to those of Texas Rio's, especially for size 32 and smaller. Indeed, Florida's larger reds are bringing better prices than our Rio's!
Florida grapefruit sizes trended smaller this season, which would put a premium on the larger sizes-but to bring prices higher than Rio is a bit unsettling. The positive news is that if Florida's reds can bring such f.o.b. prices, surely our Texas Ruby-Sweet should fetch comparable prices, too-meaning better than usual returns for our growers who still have Ruby-Sweet orchards.
Overall, Texas oranges have been averaging close to a dollar a carton higher than last season, while grapefruit has been running a bit or two less than a dollar higher. Given packouts of 75 to 80 percent, overall returns could average as much as $30 more per ton on Rio's and $40 more on oranges.
...NOR ANY DROP TO DRINK-
As I pointed out last month, our water situation is more critical than last season because of the lack of winter rains this season. Indeed, much of the Valley had not received significant rainfall from last October until the general rains that arrived at the end of March.
The storms came from northern Mexico and west Texas, i.e., right across our watersheds-but initial reports indicated very little inflows into the reservoirs. I suppose the rainfall amounts and intensity were too low to produce much in the way of runoff. With few exceptions, about the only runoff noted around the Valley came from fields which has just been irrigated.
While the rains were most welcome, we are still way below normal since October. While I don't really want to catch up to normal in a hurry, it surely would be nice to get a couple of inches every couple of weeks or so-at least through the end of May when fruit set and ultimate potential fruit size will have been determined.
THE SHAPE OF THINGS-
Sheepnosing of Rio's has continued to be a problem with more questions than answers. Reports are that some orchards were as bad as ever, although the problem generally appeared to be less severe than in years past. Even so, I have observed a lot of slight and moderately sheepnosed Rio's being packed.
Over the last two seasons, I have conducted extensive measurements and comparisons of the shapes of various sizes of Rio and Henderson grapefruit. During the 1997-98 season, the shape of non-sheepnosed Rio's was considerably rounder than that of Henderson. Too, smaller sizes were rounder than larger sizes in both varieties.
Because 1997 was a relatively wet year and 1998 was comparatively dry (to put it mildly), I sort of expected Rio's to be a little flatter than season. Sure enough, my measurements confirmed that non-sheepnosed Rio fruit was flatter this season-through the entire range of commercial sizes. What about the shape of Henderson this year? You guessed it-even flatter than last season, though increased flatness was not to the extent that occurred in Rio.
Although I haven't finished with this problem, a couple of observations come to mind. It is well-documented that climate influences fruit shape-but all of the literature that I have reviewed compared fruit shape between climatic zones rather than between varieties within a climatic zone. Still, climatic differences within the Valley apparently result in more sheepnosing in the Upper Valley than in the Lower Valley. Nonetheless, sheepnosing in Rio is persistent and occurs to some degree in every orchard in the Valley every year, while it is of fairly uncommon occurrence in Henderson and other Ruby-Sweet varieties.
The fact that Rio does produce some very oblate (flat) fruit as well as rounder fruit and various degrees of sheepnosed fruit-all on the same tree-suggests that the factor or factors that cause sheepnosing are not influencing the whole tree. Indeed, it has been my observation that the shape of all fruit on the same twig is identical, i.e., all fruit in a cluster are either flat, round, or sheepnosed to the same degree.
As stated at the outset, the more I study the problem, the more questions I raise. While we may never be able to entirely prevent sheepnosing in Rio's, it is imperative to understand what causes it. Only then can we look for ways to at least attenuate the problem.
With the rains, orchard operations will be on hold for a couple of weeks. For the most part, irrigation, weed control and fertilization were completed prior to the rainfall. The next major operation will be post-bloom pest control, possibly as soon as orchard access is possible.
The citrus IPM scouting program is set to begin biweekly monitoring of enrolled orchards this month. Contact Dr. Juan Anciso at the Hidalgo County Extension office in Edinburg if you are considering participation this season.
Last month I stated that grapefruit bloom seemed to be a little early this season. Since then, I have also observed grapefruit orchards that have really not bloomed well at all, i.e., they had a scattered early bloom and very little bloom since. Perhaps the drought of last summer and winter is to blame, maybe in combination with continued cool spells through March. If late bloom is a major factor in sheepnosing, late blooming orchards should be in for a bad year with regard to fruit shape. Time will tell.
JULIAN W. SAULS, Ph.D.
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