|IN THIS ISSUE:
CITRUS INSURANCE LISTENING SESSION
With the new year, we have ceased to provide a printed version of Valley Citrus Notes. As more and more subscribers have gone on-line and are more comfortable with electronic communications, the number of people willing to pay for the printed newsletter delivered by regular mail has shrunk to the point that it is no longer justifiable to continue that method of delivery.
Consequently, this issue marks the end of 16 years of the traditional printed newsletter, and the beginning of a totally electronic version. The easiest way to receive the newsletter is to either e-mail your request to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also go on-line to http://horticulture.tamu.edu/newsletters/citrus/ menu.html. Either source will be available simultaneously-the difference is that via e-mail, it automatically comes to your computer, whereas on the web, you have to remember to go looking for it each month-which is not something most people want to do. One advantage of the web version is that it contains back issues since 1995, in case you want to go back in time.
CITRUS INSURANCE LISTENING SESSION-
There will be a grower meeting on Thursday, January 9 at 1:00 pm in the Citrus Center's Rio Red Room (that's the one to the southeast rear of the main office building). The purpose is to provide grower and industry input in the development of an insurance program covering citrus trees against perils such as weather, insects, diseases, et cetera.
The meeting is hosted by AgriLogic, Inc., which was awarded a contract from the USDA's Risk Management Agency to determine the feasibility of such a citrus replacement policy. Because of limited seating, contact Cindy Ranne or Derek Seelig at 877/245-6442 extension 8129 or 8131.
RIO GRANDE VALLEY HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY INSTITUTE-
The annual Institute of the Rio Grande Valley Horticultural Society is scheduled for January 21, 2003 in Hoblitzelle Auditorium at the Weslaco Agricultural Research and Extension Center. Final details of the program have not been completed, but registration will start at 7:30 am.
TEXAS CITRUS FIESTA-
The Annual Texas Citrus Fiesta will be occurring this month in Mission, including the ever-popular Citrus Youth Show and Competition. The Youth Show is scheduled for January 24 and 25. Exhibits will be accepted from 4:00 to 8:00 pm on Friday, January 24, while the Judging and Identification Contests will be conducted at 9:00 am on Saturday, January 25. For complete rules and other pertinent information, including imagery of varieties and of judging classes, go to http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/citrus/fiesta/fiesta.htm.
Participating youngsters will be contacting citrus growers for the opportunity to enter orchards to collect fruit that they intend to enter into the exhibits. They must clip the fruit from the tree, leaving the button attached. If you are contacted, please give them permission to collect from your orchard. You yourself should go by the Youth Show Exhibits to see the kind of fruit that takes top honors, as well as some of the diverse citrus that you may not have even thought about as growing here in the Valley. The show is open to the public at the conclusion of the identification and judging contests on Saturday morning.
The Youth Show will be located in a tent in the park near the corner of Conway and Business 83 in downtown Mission.
There is little in the way of news to report regarding any possible water coming from Mexico in time to be of benefit for the coming season. As it stands now, the reservoir levels are only slightly higher than they were as we entered 2002, so for now, that is all that we can reliably depend upon to meet our water needs in 2003. As I said previously, the present scenario means that we will be at least no worse off than we were last year-and you are already seeing the impact of inadequate irrigation water on overall citrus production in the current season. Too many successive years of inadequate irrigation and rainfall are taking a toll on citrus orchards.
Although production of Texas oranges and grapefruit are down from last season, so too are both movement and price. Fresh grapefruit shipments just prior to Christmas equaled 88.6% of last year. Early oranges were moving at only 83.2% while navels are really hurting at only 68.1% of last season's volume at the same time. Because movement of early oranges is hurting, it is unlikely that all of the remaining volume can be marketed fresh-so some groves with excellent fruit are already being picked straight to the juice plant.
Many are blaming the wet weather of early season for the lack of sales volume, especially coupled with decay problems that resulted from the wet weather. In addition, there were some problems with loads being turned back at the Arizona border due to failure to comply with certain regulations. The latter situation has been corrected, but movement of our short crop is still hurting, further pushing down prices as packers struggle to move the fruit into the market and prices of a short crop should be higher than normal rather than lower. Not the best of times for Texas citrus growers...
NEW SEASON UPON US-
As if we don't have enough problems, growers are having to make decisions and get started with production inputs for the coming season-likely with less income from the current crop than they had at their disposal for the existing crop. With all that is going on today, it is almost surprising that the bloom in oranges is only about five to six weeks away, with grapefruit bloom barely two months from now.
Many growers have already put out fertilizer, the rest are about to do so. As soon as the weather takes a turn for consistently warmer temperatures, the orchards will begin to initiate growth. While soil moisture is not great at this time, as it has been a long time since the October rains, the initiation of growth will also signal the need for supplemental irrigation unless adequate rain occurs between now and then.
As usual, my advice is to irrigate when the trees need the water, as the first necessity is to facilitate the flush, bloom and fruit set. Water for sizing and subsequent tree growth is not so critical if you don't have much fruit to size.
With the transfer of Dr. Juan Anciso to the Extension Vegetable Specialist at the Weslaco Center, it is doubtful that the Texas Pest Management Association's Citrus IPM program will be available this season, as it is unlikely that his replacement will be hired in time to start the program. Consequently, growers may not have the backup on which many normally rely for scouting of pest problems in their groves.
Firing of the most recent, immature flush is apparent across the Valley. Although Texas citrus mites are sometimes implicated in this condition, weather is a consistent factor in its occurrence. Basically, the last month has seen several cold frontal systems pushing into the Valley, bringing very dry air. These colder conditions coupled with unusually low relative humidity and drying winds result in the withering, curling and defoliation of leaves which have not fully matured.
Thus, only those twigs on the periphery of the tree canopy and commonly on the northwest quadrant (though not exclusively) exhibit firing and defoliation.
Growers are gearing up for irrigation, fertilization, weed control practices as the new season is just around the corner. Pest control will soon follow. Hedging and topping is and has been occurring as the orchards which need pruning are harvested.
JULIAN W. SAULS, Ph.D.
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