IN THIS ISSUE:

WATER SUPPLY
VALLEY CITRUS CONFERENCE
RGV HORT SOCIETY
CURRENT CROP
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
CURRENT SITUATION


WATER SUPPLY-

If you missed the RGV Agriculture Irrigation Conference at Weslaco on December 4, you missed a great opportunity to learn about the water situation in the Rio Grande. You might recall that I have previously stated that agriculture in Tamaulipas has suffered far more than we have in the Lower Valley. Ing. Alvaro Rivera Fernandez, President of the Regional Agricultural Union of Northern Tamaulipas, presented supporting information about that, their lawsuit against the Mexican government and the basic causes of the present situation.

I probably missed some of his comments (given in Spanish, with translation that sometimes was not exactly what he actually said). He did say that about 650,000 irrigated acres just across the river have been forced into dryland production as a consequence of the water problem. Too, he indicated that there was no irrigation in the present year and that the government has already informed producers that there will be no irrigation water in the coming year.

As for the lawsuit, the contention is that the treaty specifically requires any 5-year water deficit to be repaid in the following 5-year cycle from waters of the six named and measured tributaries. Ergo, they consider the in-storage transfers and the transfers of 50:50 waters illegal under the treaty and under the constitution of Mexico. While that contention may be technically correct, the minute orders signed by both presidents supposedly take precedence.

Obviously, the above water transfers to the U.S. have helped Texas irrigators survive-at the expense of Tamaulipas irrigators. Until the transfers, those waters belonged to those Tamaulipas irrigators, so one can readily understand their position. Presently, there is unallocated 50:50 water in storage from rains of the last couple of months, awaiting the outcome of the lawsuit.

Ing. Rivera Fernandez presented data to show that rainfall in the upper watersheds of the six named tributaries has been near normal in the last nine years-though there may have been some reduction in rainfall and snow in the Sierra Madre Occidental where some of the tributaries originate. He also showed analyses of the use of water in three irrigation districts (mostly in Chihuahua) over the last decade. He indicated that given the reduced inflows to those districts, those districts should have reduced their water use concomitantly-but did not. In other words, if irrigation use in those districts had been reduced proportionately to the reduced availability of water, there would have been some 2.3 million acre feet of water available to comply with treaty requirements. In other words, both Texas and Tamaulipas would not be in such dire straits today.

He ended his presentation with a call for Texas and Tamaulipas to join together to secure the water from the six named tributaries in accordance with the terms of the 1944 treaty. Essentially, it would appear that we do agree on the source of the problem-and that centers up in Chihuahua.

VALLEY CITRUS COMMITTEE-

This annual program of the Citrus IPM Committee is scheduled for Thursday, December 6, at the Citrus Center in Weslaco. CEU's in IPM and General will be available. Registration is at 7:30 to 8:30, and the first presentation is at 8:30.

Topics and speakers include Citrus CEO Insurance (Mike McLarty and Clay Everhard), TCX News (Joel Wilsher), Phytophthora/Rootweevil (Dr. Mani Skaria), Insect Control and IPM (Dr. Vic French), FQPA and IPM (Dr. Juan Anciso) and Production Topics (yours truly).

RGV HORT SOCIETY-

The Rio Grande Valley Horticultural Society has issued a call for posters, abstracts and oral presentations for its annual Horticulture Institute, which will be held on January 22 at the TAMU-K Citrus Center. If you are interested in any of the above, contact the RGV Hort Society, 2401 East Highway 83, Weslaco, TX 78596.

CURRENT CROP-

Movement of both earlies and navels are substantially above the same time last season. Surprisingly, fob prices for navels are not much higher than those for early oranges. This is especially puzzling when one considers that both crops are lower than last season and when the short navel crop in California is factored in. It does appear that the larger sizes of California navels is going to be a problem, as there is a scarcity of the smaller fruit sizes. In fact, California Citrus Mutual has suggested that the industry raise the price of the scarce, small sizes (rather than cut the price on the larger sizes) to stimulate demand for the larger fruit at its current price levels.

Texas grapefruit is still lagging substantially behind last season-and does not appear to be gaining ground very fast. Mostly, it is a domestic problem, as exports are running fairly close to last season-which wasn't great by any means. Despite the widely held belief that grapefruit sizes would be up this season, packers are decrying the lack of large sizes. It goes back to water and weather-grapefruit just didn't grow much through the summer and probably no one had enough water at any time during the season.

I still firmly believe that the overall crop of grapefruit, earlies, navels and Valencias will be down from last season-official estimates notwithstanding. External quality, however, is excellent and internal quality gets better every week.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT-

A couple of months ago, you should have received the final returns on your 2000-01 orange juice-and they were dismally low. Because orange juice is normally a profitable commodity and since the juice market wasn't all that bad, what happened?

First, Texas has too many Marrs oranges and too few Valencias-and we grossly overproduced Marrs last season, swamping the juice plant with fruit we couldn't sell on the fresh market. Marrs is like most other early/mid oranges, which is to say that it has lower solids, poorer color and lower quality than Valencias oranges. In order to sell Marrs concentrate, it has to be mixed with sufficient Valencia concentrate to make a blend that is marketable.

TCX had to purchase a whole lot of Valencia concentrate last season because of the excessive amount of Marrs juice they were receiving-and it wasn't cheap. For example, Florida processors paid about 95 per pound for Valencia solids last season, but less than 60 for early/mid solids. Too much Marrs juice plus a lot of higher-priced Valencia juice filled the plant to capacity, so it was forced to sell a lot of juice at lower prices just to make room for more Marrs juice coming in every day.

The juice plant pays a single, pooled price per ton of oranges it processes. Basically, this pooled price is the net of total orange juice returns, less the costs of processing and marketing, and less the cost of the Valencia juice they had to buy, divided by the total tons of oranges processed.

Perhaps now you understand why your juice returns were so low. If you're a Marrs grower, be thankful for what you got-it was more than what your juice was worth. If you're the owner of any of the approximately 1200 acres of Valencias in Texas, you have my sympathy. After all, your Valencias produced more pounds of solids per ton than Marrs, with a value per pound of solids more than 50 percent greater than Marrs. In addition, you helped pay for the reduced-price sales of the excess Marrs juice inventory as well as for the Valencia juice that was imported to blend with Marrs. But, your Valencia juice received the same low return per ton as Marrs did-the average, pooled return for all oranges.

Is it any wonder that Texas doesn't have more Valencias?

CURRENT SITUATION-

The cold spells of the last couple of weeks have really improved fruit color. The accompanying rainfall was helpful, also. Given the weather of the last few weeks, it's looking more and more like a cool, moist winter.

A couple of growers have reported increasing populations of citrus rust mites. I would have thought that the cooler weather would have slowed their development sufficiently that spraying would not be necessary. Still, keep an eye on them, as we don't need a repeat of the mid-winter outbreak that caught many growers by surprise a couple of seasons ago.
Soil moisture is fair to good because of recent rains and/or irrigation, so the trees should be in good shape for winter. Regardless of the effect on harvesting, I expect most growers would welcome winter rains-as the current water storage levels are about 25 percent lower than for any year end in the current era. In other words, water for irrigation will be even shorter than last year as we approach the start of a new season.

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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