|IN THIS ISSUE:
From my understanding of orange grading standards, I did not expect fruit having half a dozen or so of the insect-induced spots to make even Number 2 grade. I'll have to re-read the standards, as there were a whole lot of navel oranges with the damage in the local H.E.B.'s in early November.
Regardless of grading standards or my understanding of them, there probably won't be any more spotted navels making the market-from what I have seen in the last couple of weeks, they won't even make it into picking bins. The damaged spots have softened and decay organisms are causing the fruit to rot. Much of the damaged navels are already on the orchard floor, while most of those still hanging will fall as pickers move through the tree.
END OF YEAR-NOTHING MORE-
It truly amazes me that so many in this country have bought into the idea that the next millennium is only a few weeks away. Then again, perhaps I shouldn't be astounded at all, given the reported trends in educational accomplishments-not only can Johnny not read, he can't count either. Neither can his parents, apparently.
Since there was no year O A.D. (or 00) and since the first decade A.D. ended after 10 full years, not after just nine years, then the first century ended after 100 years and the first millennium ended after 1000 years. So, too, will this century and this millennium end at midnight, December 31, 2000.
Those who predict the end of the world at the end of the millennium will have to do it all over again next year when the current millennium actually ends. Actually, they'll use the fact that the millennium isn't over yet to justify why their predictions didn't come true next month.
Please note that the Y2K bug is, however, a real threat to some interests, i.e., computer uses involving calendar dates. Still, I expect the banks to open as usual on January 3, as will everything else.
TWO FIELD DAYS-
On Tuesday, December 7, the annual Valley Citrus Day program will be conducted at the Citrus Center. Featured topics include discussions on the biology of rust mites, the orange spotting problem, a discussion and demonstration on grading of grapefruit and the Go Texan marketing campaign. This program is conducted under the aegis of the Valley Citrus IPM Committee. If you need a CEU in Laws & Regs, it will be offered at 8:30. Registration opens at 7:30 a.m.
On December 15, the Citrus Center will conduct a field day starting at 9:30 following registration that commences at 8:00. Morning events include tours of orchards at the Center, labs at the Center and labs at the Experiment Station. After lunch, there will be a stop at Edinburg Citrus Association to see a pressure washer, then to Everhard Nursery to see a high-density, microbudded citrus planting. This program should conclude about 3:30 - 4:00.
One of the major concerns of growers in the citrus IPM program is that grapefruit packouts don't meet their expectations. Because of that concern, we initially considered a visit to a packinghouse as part of Valley Citrus Day to see firsthand how the fruit is graded. After further consideration, we opted to have representatives of the Crop Inspection Service come to the program to show and explain the grading process.
To set up their presentation, I crunched the numbers for grapefruit utilization during the last seven seasons. Fresh utilization ranged from a low of 64.3 percent in 1995-96 to a high of 72.8 percent in 1997-98, with an overall average of 68.7 percent. In other words, nearly one-third of all grapefruit entering the packinghouse end up at TCX.
Why? That's what Kevin McLaughlin and Earl Chiles will show us next week. Is there anything the grower can do to improve the numbers? The answer depends on the reasons for the nearly one-third PHE-year after year after year.
With little or no rain, either in the Valley or the watersheds, and increased plantings of cane and possibly vegetables, the water supply is still declining. The U.S. share of reservoir supplies was 40.85 percent as of the 20th of November-down from a September high of over 42 percent. While better than the 39.8 percent at the end of 1998, we still have a month to go.
Ironically, irrigation is usually considered as supplementary to rainfall; in our case, we need rainfall to supplement our limited irrigation supply.
As I pointed out in each of the last two years, we will need timely rainfall in order to stretch the water supply far enough to set and mature next season's crop. As you will recall, we didn't get the rain in 1998, and we barely got enough in 1999-at least until September. Too, because September rains were rather scarce, most stations are reporting below normal totals for the year.
There has been an increase in firing over the last couple of weeks. This is the situation wherein the leaves of the last growth flush curl up and drop, leaving the petiole wing attached to the twig. Firing is generally always a problem that occurs in the fall to early winter. The primary culprit is Texas citrus mite.
Before the relationship of surges in Texas citrus mite populations to firing was discovered, it was widely believed that firing was a physiological problem associated with the arrival of cool, dry frontal systems. The logic was that the low humidity coupled with unhardened leaves resulted in severe moisture loss from such leaves, causing them to wilt and the blade to abscise. While it is now known to result from Texas citrus mite feeding, I suspect that greater defoliation occurs when mite damage and low humidity fronts combine.
For the most part, the damage I have noted has been scattered within an orchard and it seems to be restricted to sectors of the tree. In other words, it is not affecting either an entire tree nor every tree in the orchard. As such, control is hard to justify. Too, it may be too late once defoliation commences. While Dr. Vic French is trying to put in some control tests, he really doesn't need rainfall right now. Nonetheless, a good rain will greatly reduce the problem-and the orchards could almost always use a good rain.
The weather continues to be dry and mostly cool, with only a few showers in the eastern end of the Valley during November. Fruit is coloring nicely and quality just gets better. Grapefruit harvest and shipments are running about 30 percent ahead of last season, while early and navel orange shipments are up about 70 percent.
Some growers complain of low set and/or small sizes this season. Don't forget that we had a severe drought last year-and that the grapefruit crop was up 27 percent while oranges were down only about 7 percent. Under such conditions, the trees could support growth or production, but not both at optimal levels. In other words, there was insufficient growth to support this year's crop to the maximum.
Remember, with the exception of the immediate effect of orchard practices on growth, pest control or whatever, most of what is done in the grove this year will be reflected in next year's crop.
JULIAN W. SAULS, Ph.D.
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