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It is official now-the total U.S. production of oranges is estimated to be nearly 21 percent lower than last season, while total grapefruit production is basically the same as last season.
California orange production is estimated to drop about 16.2 percent, Florida's about 22.1 percent and Texas production is expected to decline 4.7 percent.
Florida white and other grapefruit is forecast to decline some 2.4 percent, but red grapefruit is expected to increase by 2.9 percent-for an overall increase of 0.9 percent. Texas grapefruit is forecast up 4.1 percent over last season.
Of the Texas crop, early and mid-season oranges, including navels, are estimated at 55,000 tons-down 2000 tons from last season. Valencia orange production is estimated at 6,000 tons-down 1000 tons from last year. Grapefruit production is estimated at 200,000 tons-8000 tons above last year, but still 12,000 tons below the 1996-97 season.
In spite of no rain and limited irrigation from bloom through the end of August, the Texas estimates are mildly surprising, as I expected higher numbers. Remember that a December, 1996, frost negatively impacted production in much of Hidalgo County in the 1997-98 season-and those orchards should have rebounded this season. Too, the long term alternate bearing trend of Marrs orange production indicates that this is an "up" year for Marrs.
Well, I've been wrong before and probably will be again. The estimate is just that-an estimate-and it will be revised, up or down, as the season progresses.
That Texas weather is the average of the two extremes is an axiom that is certainly playing out this year. After six months without significant rainfall in most of the Valley, the rains have kept coming through September and October.
Continued rainfall has slowed overall harvest slightly in comparison to last season-about 3.0 percent. Mostly, the slowdown has been in oranges, as grapefruit movement is up about 7.8 percent, while early orange volume is down some 10.2 percent and navel orange volume is down a shopping 43.4 percent.
I suppose it is too much to hope that these rains would move on up to the watershed where they would be more useful and allow the Valley to dry out enough that orchard work and harvesting could proceed normally.
CITRUS WEB ONLINE-
After months of work, the Texas Citrus and Subtropical Fruits website went online October 19. It has generated numerous compliments-despite the fact that much of the contents needs updating and despite the fact that there is a lot of information yet to be posted. Somewhat proudly, I have to say that it is a good start on what I would like to see it become ultimately.
You will note that we linked to several other entities such as TexaSweet, TCX and AMS-USDA, as well as TDA, the University of Florida and the University of California. However, we did not and will not link to any commercial entity promoting Florida or California citrus fruit.
Citrus rust mites have really increased this past month in most orchards because of the September and October rains. Some of these populations are very low at this time but are expected to increase even as the cooler temperatures of winter approach. The armored scale complex, especially Florida red scale, continue to be causing problems even with spray applications of Lorsban and Supracide providing temporary control of the crawlers with little or no control of the armored adult. Currently, groves with heavy infestations are being evaluated to see if any natural enemies (parasitoids) can be collected so they can be mass reared and released in these problem groves. If you have a grove with severe problems with Florida red scale please call me at my office (956/383-1026). Also, California and chaff scale have caused their problems this season as some of the fruit is reaching the packinghouse but chemical control is still effective. Citrus leafminer is at low levels but is expected to increase due to the tremendous growth flushes. Greasy spot and melanose have not been a problem but due to the rains these diseases are infecting the new leaves which will be next year's mature leaves.
NEW PEST IN FLORIDA-
The Asian citrus psyllid was detected in Florida this past June. Currently, it is limited to the east coast from Broward to St. Lucie counties in dooryard plantings. While not a major pest of citrus, it is of concern because this psyllid is a vector of citrus greening disease caused by a bacterium.
Fortunately, citrus greening has not been detected in Florida, so the Asian Citrus psyllid may continue as a minor pest. As such, the primary damage is similar to that of other sap-feeding organisms, including the development of sooty mold on the honeydew remaining after feeding.
With the spate of rains in recent weeks, weeds are getting out of hand in many orchards. Repeated rains have favored weed growth while hampering control operations. Where chemical controls are to be used, growers should check the label carefully for pre-harvest intervals for the herbicides that are contemplated so as not to delay harvesting.
Citrus rust mites are flourishing in some orchards-mostly because of the rains and the inability to enter the groves to spray. Where control is necessary, growers should check the label for pre-harvest intervals of whatever pesticides are contemplated.
With the short crop of orange, in the U.S., orange prices should be the best they have been in years. Reports from Florida are that processing oranges are being solicited as high as $1.15 per pound solids. That works out to about $130 per ton for the average Marrs orange juice yield. With that kind of floor, fresh orange values should be pretty good.
JULIAN W. SAULS, Ph.D.
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