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Over the last few months, I have pondered the future of this newsletter. For various reasons, subscriptions are down substantially from the days when it was free. Since the subscription cost barely covers the costs associated with the newsletter, I have no choice but to charge for it. Because I have also posted it on the web for the last couple of years, some former subscribers are getting it there-which poses a dilemma: how can I justify charging you for something you can get free?
Basically, I have decided to offer you two options: 1) If you want a copy mailed to you as in the past, send your check for $12.00 (payable to Texas Agricultural Extension Service) but 2) if you prefer to receive it electronically via e-mail, then just send your e-mail address to "firstname.lastname@example.org" and forget about the check. Thus, those who want a hard copy will pay for the mailing, those who want to help justify the monthly fee paid to their internet service provider can get it free and print their own copy from the computer.
So, you have January and February to respond in order to continue receiving Valley Citrus Notes-either via snail mail or e-mail, its your choice.
SHEEPNOSING IN RIO-
Severe sheepnosing in Rio Red grapefruit is common this season. To make matters worse, production in many orchards is down, size is up and the resulting coarseness, thick skin and sheepnosing are reducing packouts.
When I went back to temperature records from November, 1998, through May, 1999, all periods recorded substantially higher than normal daily maxima, daily minima and daily mean temperatures. Those data suggested a higher than normal occurrence of sheepnosing, and I have seen more severe sheepnosing in Rio and in other varieties of grapefruit.
While there may not be universal acceptance of the above temperature data in relation to sheepnosing, there are other factors which help explain its severity this season. Because of the effects of the drought in 1998, growth was reduced, bloom in 1999 was scattered and fruit set was down. But, most growers provided the usual or even better cultural management in early 1999 to help the trees recover from the effects of the drought-resulting higher vigor also increases the severity of sheepnosing when fruit set is down. Catch 22. Please read on.
PREPARATIONS FOR A HIGHER SET-
Because the overall grapefruit crop was down this season, one could reasonably anticipate a good set in the coming spring. It will be necessary to provide adequate nutrition and other inputs to mature the expected large crop, and to provide a little extra to ensure good tree growth so that the following crop won't be so drastically reduced.
Texas grapefruit is showing a strong tendency to alternate bearing, i.e., a large crop one season followed by lower production the next and then higher the next. To attenuate the problem, about the best you can do is to provide extra fertilizer and better management of water and weeds during the higher crop year. Then cut back a little on the fertilizer during the low crop year.
This is not as drastic as it would appear. For example, if you would normally apply 150 pounds of nitrogen per acre, add 20 to 25 pounds in the high crop year and reduce 20 to 25 pounds in the low crop year. Thus, you should be able to attenuate the differences in high and low crop years and ultimately get the orchard back into a consistent production level.
This condition has been about as bad as I've ever seen-Texas citrus mites and very low humidity periods have taken their toll on leaves of the fall flush. Those leaves will have to be replaced in the coming flushes to optimize fruit set and fruit size, so the addition of a few extra pounds of nitrogen as recommended in the preceding article should be helpful in this regard.
RGV HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY INSTITUTE-
The Annual Institute of the Rio Grande Valley Horticultural Society will be conducted on January 18 at the Citrus Center. There will be concurrent sessions in Fruits, Vegetables and Ornamentals from 9:30 to 10:30, followed by a Plenary Session featuring Dr. Stephen Searcy of TAMU discussing Precision Agriculture. After a brief business meeting, the Potts Award will be presented and lunch will be served.
In the Fruit Session, Dr. John da Graca will discuss greening and variegated chlorosis of citrus, I will present results of grapefruit shape studies and Dr. Bhimu Patil will discuss citrus phytonutrients.
See you there.
The annual Texas Citrus Fiesta is coming up in Mission, so you can expect requests from a few kids to select fruit from some of your groves. Most of the youth who participate come from Sharlyland and Mission, though all Valley youth are eligible to enter fruit exhibits.
The Youth Exhibits will be set up in Bannworth Park on January 21, with judging to follow. Additional youth competition in judging citrus and citrus identification will be held the next morning, with the displays then being opened to the public.
As a citrus grower who has not visited the exhibits in the youth show, you really owe it to yourself to go see all the different kinds of citrus that we can grow here. Who knows-you might find something besides grapefruit and early oranges that strikes your fancy.
The reservoir supplies are about the same as they were last year at this time, so water allocations will not be sufficient for citrus groves. Forewarned is forearmed, so be prepared to stretch your water and hope for rain.
Speaking of rain, we are in dire need right now. Soaking rains across the Valley would essentially eliminate the need for pre-plant irrigation in thousands of acres of row crops-which would really help the situation down the road.
Citrus fruit color has been exceptionally good this year-I cannot remember a season when oranges were so brightly colored so early in the season.
JULIAN W. SAULS, Ph.D.
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