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SE TEXAS CITRUS
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Despite the colder weather that blew in February 28, spring has sprung in the Valley. Oranges are in full bloom and grapefruit is about to be. The bloom is massive, and orchard floors are completely white from falling petals, "popcorn" buds and blooms. Prospects for a huge new crop are promisin-even as we struggle to finish the current one.
Although the following data are two weeks old, they don't paint a pretty picture. Texas grapefruit shipments through February 17 are 12.0 percent behind those of a year earlier. Earlies have gained a little, now being down only 25.4 percent, and navels are actually up 2.6 percent. Moreover, there is 1.7 times more grapefruit still on-tree than at this time last year.
If it is any consolation, it isn't just Texas-fresh shipments of Florida grapefruit are down about the same degree as ours. Why has movement of fresh grapefruit been so slow all season? A lot of possibilities have been offered-smaller fruit size (both states), competition from competing produce, a cold winter that made shopping difficult in many markets and other factors as well. One observer even suggested a response to the election fiasco in which the two grapefruit-producing states were linked, however unlikely that may be.
As I noted last month, don't expect this season to end before June-it's just not going to happen.
The Texas Citrus Budwood Certification Program is making progress and expects to have a number of virus-free buds of both commercial and non-commercial cultivars available this spring. The foundation block is still too young to "guarantee" trueness-to-type, as that cannot be done until fruit can be evaluated.
Interestingly, Mexico has just published regulations for the production and transportation of virus-free citrus propagation material to deal with the threat of virus diseases to Mexico's citrus industry. If that effort works and if Louisiana would follow suit, the threat to Texas citrus would be diminished substantially.
SE TEXAS CITRUS-
Speaking of Louisiana, I was in Kountze, Hardin County, last month to address the SE Texas Fruit Growers Conference. There are a lot of citrus trees in SE Texas-and too many of them came from south Louisiana and, lately, Alabama.
Fewer than a handful of propagators-nurseries are even trying to produce the citrus trees that SE Texans want, so who can really fault the consumers up that way if they are unconcerned with the origin of the citrus trees they plant? I have suggested to a couple of local citrus nurseries about producing the trees, but the usual response involves either low volume or trifoliate rootstock.
We all know that trifoliate grows poorly in Valley soils-but it does great in container culture. Too, few homeowners are even aware of rootstocks (and even fewer retail nurseries), so I would suggest growing them on sour. Regardless of rootstock or growing in containers vs. the field, the trees must be offered for sale in containers?folks up there just aren't into B&B stock.
As for volume, I really think you would be surprised at the number of trees that could be sold in SE Texas, to say nothing of the potential from Houston to San Antonio. Wholesale prices are in the $12 to 15 range, retailers get $25 or more. At those prices, I would think that a local citrus nursery could easily afford to bud certified mandarins in containers and deliver them to the Houston-Beaumont-Galveston area. That's what they're doing in south Louisiana and south Alabama-except the trees aren't certified!
Water levels have increased again-about 43.9 percent of conservation level on February 27. Moreover, there are reports of substantial and widespread rains in the Rio Concho basin, though there are a number of impoundments that will preclude runoff from reaching the Rio Grande. Still, maybe enough will be captured that Mexico might make some real progress on its water debt. The last I heard is that Mexico is hoping to repay about 350,000 acre feet in July-and that negotiations are ongoing.
July? Isn't that after cotton, corn, sorghum and the like are finished?
The annual Mid-Year meeting of Texas Citrus Mutual is scheduled for March 30 at the Citrus Center. It is an all-day program, commencing with breakfast. Registration details are available from TCM. Since I haven't seen a copy of the program, I can't give any further details.
While we had some decent rains a month ago, any significant rainfall with the current cold front is yet to materialize. With bloom upon us, the need for irrigation wont' be long in coming.
Bear in mind that TemikŪ must be applied by the end of March, if you
plan to use it. Consequently, Temik application and irrigation should
be closely scheduled. Even if we get an inch or so of rain this weekend,
irrigation would still be needed before the month is out (unless it just
rains all month!). It isn't yet hot enough for winter weeds to start
dying out, but that will change soon enough as March progresses. Where
the herbicide program is breaking, the new crop of summer weeds is already
JULIAN W. SAULS, Ph.D.
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