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Navel orange shipments have already surpassed last season's total with about 650,000 cartons moved into fresh markets. The final volume won't be much higher, as harvest is nearly completed.
Early orange movement is substantially above last season, running about 37 percent ahead. Considering that most Pineapple and Jaffa oranges are still out there, the total should easily surpass last season's final volume. The official estimate of early/navel oranges was dropped about 13,000 tons in early January (about 15 percent) but even that may still prove to be too high.
Grapefruit has finally made up for its late start, now being about equal to the movement of a year ago. The official estimate was dropped some 20,000 tons to 292,000, which is still above last season's total production of 285,560 tons. Some in the industry do not expect production to top that of last season.
The calculation of "remaining supply" of grapefruit in TVCC's Weekly Utilization Reports does not appear to have factored in the shed eliminations that were dumped in the 2001 part of this season. As you know, TCX did not accept any grapefruit for processing until the first of January.
Last season, nearly 11 percent of the total grapefruit crop had been processed by mid-January-but only 2.5 percent has been processed this season (and more than a third of that was not handled by TCX). Apparently, no one compiled the data on the volume of eliminations dumped by the different packinghouses and the records may not even be retrievable now.
Still, the point is that the remaining supply is several points lower than reported, possibly as much as 8.0 percent. And regardless of whether you think the current estimate is about right or still to high, a high "percent remaining" number puts downward pressure on prices from both sides of the equation. Buyers see that supplies are more than plentiful, so they demand a lower price, while shippers look at the high number and figure they have to move more fruit more quickly, so they cut the price.
The bottom line is that because the bulk of our crop is handled on a consignment basis, the shipper gets his pick, pack and sell charge, plus commission on total receipts, the grower gets what's left-and lower prices mean less "what's left".
GRAPEFRUIT AND GOURMET-
Magazine, that is. I just received a complimentary copy of the February edition of Gourmet Magazine, compliments of the publisher and David Karp. Mr. Karp was in the Valley last spring doing some research on our red grapefruit for an article he planned to write for Gourmet. His article, on page 99, references a couple of local producers; Sharyland Orchards and South Texas Organics.
The article is well-written and favorable to Texas grapefruit, but other grapefruit are also mentioned. No article in Gourmet would be complete without some fantastic recipes and this one has six by Lori Powell that are sure to please anyone who likes grapefruit.
Some years ago, I reported about Conserv II, a wastewater reclamation project of Orlando/Orange County, Florida, and long-term tests on the use of the reclaimed water on citrus growth and production. Parsons et al. of the University of Florida reported on the results after 10 years (HortScience 36(7):1273-1277. 2001). They used some extreme volumes of water with good results in terms of tree growth and production.
Given the continued water shortage in the Valley, one wonders about the possibility of growers, irrigation districts and municipalities working together to implement wastewater reclamation projects locally. In the Conserv II project, the water was normal sewage effluent collected in Orlando and surrounding communities. For the reclamation effort, the effluent was subjected to advanced secondary treatment of high level disinfection, coagulation, filtration and chlorination then pumped to about 4700 acres of citrus.
While not potable, the reclaimed water has no color, no odor, and is very low in heavy metals. Salinity levels were somewhat higher than the original well water, but not detrimental. With substantially higher salinity in our water source, increased salinity of reclaimed water could reach undesirable levels. Still, it?s an idea that bears exploring.
The recommended fertilization practice for Texas citrus is to apply 150 pounds of nitrogen during the season, preferably in a two-thirds/one-third split pre-bloom and post-set. Split applications enable the grower to fertilize based on the estimate of actual fruit set-a light set should not receive the May application, whereas a normal set should. An overly heavy set should receive an extra 25 pounds of nitrogen in May.
In recent years, both Rio Red and Marrs have demonstrated alternate bearing tendencies. For the most part, both varieties had heavy crops in 2000-01, but lighter crops in 2001-2002. Consequently, both should be up again in the coming season. Obviously, these observations are for the industry as a whole-individual groves may not follow the same pattern.
Orchards which were recently hedged and topped, or soon will be, will not require the full fertilizer rate. The rule of thumb is to reduce the rate of fertilization by the percentage of wood and leaves removed in pruning. To apply the full rate, especially to Rios, risks increased peel thickness and coarseness as well as increased severity of sheepnosing because of the reduced fruit set that results from hedging. Note that I did not claim an increase in sheepnosing from over-fertilization (or from hedging), rather that its severity is increased. In other words, over-fertilization will result in lightly sheepnosed fruit becoming moderately sheepnosed while moderately sheepnosed fruit will become severely sheepnosed. Fruit that was already destined to be severely sheepnosed will become even larger, coarser and puffier.
Fertilization on a regular basis through microsprayers or drip systems is undoubtedly the most efficient means of applying nitrogen to citrus. Because of its efficiency, overall nitrogen rates can be reduced by 15 to 25 percent.
Finally, if you practice annual leaf analyses in the summer, use the results to guide the total nutrition program, especially with respect to other nutrients. Indeed, leaf analysis is the only way to determine the need for micronutrients before they become limiting to growth and production.
Hedging and topping operations have been initiated in many orchards over the last couple of years and more are scheduled for the current season. Generally, early oranges and navels should be pruned after harvest and before bloom, while Valencias should be pruned after harvest. Ideally, grapefruit should be hedged post-harvest and pre-bloom but that isn't always possible because harvest may not be completed until spring. Perhaps the best alternative is to prune after a thorough ring-pick to reduce the amount of fruit destroyed by pruning.
While some advocate complete hedging-topping, I still support an alternate middle, alternate year approach. In the latter case, fruit set on the pruned side of the tree is substantially less than on the unpruned side in the season after pruning.
Generally, the sides should be cut at an angle of 15 to 20 degrees rather than nearly straight up and down. The latter usually results in greater dieback of the skirts. Topping height should be about 12 feet at the center and 9 or 10 feet at the side.
Brush disposal is accomplished with a shredder or flail chopper, and the sooner the better, as freshly cut brush is more easily cut than that allowed to dry out for several days. Some brush will inevitably hang up in the tree or between trees out of reach of the shredder. The degree to which this occurs is much greater in orchards planted at 15 feet down the row than at closer spacings.
Soil moisture is almost totally dependent on irrigation inasmuch as there has been very limited rainfall during the fall and winter months. The current cold front has a slight chance for rain, but amounts are not expected to be significant across the Valley. Irrigation supplies are substantially lower than what we had at the start of the last season, and there has been no progress toward relief from Mexico, specifically from Chihuahua.
In fact, Mexican officials have not even agreed to meet with IBWC officials to discuss the issue, claiming that there is no water to release, so there is no reason to meet. For the record, the fact is that Mexico has never physically released water from its impoundments into the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo, all water that has entered the system has been from runoff that occurred downstream of their impoundments or from spill over.
February is the start of preparations for the new season; irrigation,
weed control and fertilization are all on tap. Oranges should begin to
bloom about mid-month, while grapefruit bloom will probably not appear
JULIAN W. SAULS, Ph.D.
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