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Weatherwise, September was almost normal, as a couple of cool fronts dropped temperatures into a more pleasant range and brought some much-needed rains. Although wet ground suspended harvesting operations for a few days, hardly anyone is complaining. Fruit is sizing nicely, and quality is better than we've seen in recent years.
Most of September's harvest was limited to early and navel oranges, with few grapefruit having achieved our high maturity standards. However, grapefruit will pick up as we progress through October and the 2001-2002 season will be at full speed before the month ends.
The news is not so good, despite the rains. Some water did enter the reservoir system, but the amounts and allocations won't be fully disclosed until near mid-October. The IBWC determines the levels and inflows as of the last Saturday of each month, then computes the assignments to ownership and reports it to the Watermaster about two weeks later.
As you know, Mexico failed to comply with the March agreement to meet the current year's 350,000 acre-feet plus another 250,000 acre-feet on the nine-year debt. As of the first of September, Mexico had nearly completed the annual obligation, so I would expect the September inflows to satisfy that 350,000 acre-feet obligation. While it is of little consolation to growers and other water users, the debt will not have been reduced (at least, not significantly), but at least it didn't get any worse.
Still, it leaves about 1.4 million acre-feet in arrears, with only one more year to the end of the second five-year cycle since the reservoirs were last at conservation level on October 1, 1992. That's one more year in hopes of a major storm system to refill the reservoirs and thereby cancel the obligation. Such events have occurred in the past?and may well be the only hope for the water needs of the Lower Rio Grande/Rio Bravo in coming years.
It occurred to me that the debt (and only the debt, not the current of future annual obligation) could be satisfied by a transfer of about half a million acre-feet per year for three years from the Colorado River's minimum 1.5 million acre-feet delivered to Mexico. No, you couldn't move that water across Arizona and New Mexico to get it to Texas?but if its ownership were transferred to Texas, I suspect that a couple of major urban centers in Southern California would be willing to pay a good price for that water.
Of course, such a hare-brained idea is predicated on the ability of potential buyers to access the Colorado (I'm told that they do, but I really don't know that). The Watermaster's office would have to allocate dollars rather than water, so that shouldn't be a hurdle other than cutting the checks. At the least, water districts would get some capital to help fund improvements in their delivery systems against the time when there is water to deliver.
Florida officials have determined that the Oriental fruit fly discovery in the Sarasota area has been controlled, with no flies trapped since mid-July. On another front, officials discovered additional canker-infected trees in an urban setting near Boca Raton.
In California, a Mediterranean fruit fly discovery in Los Angeles in mid-September caused officials to establish a quarantine area in L.A. County to head off the outbreak before it can move into commercial fruit areas. California growers are experiencing increasing resistance of California red scale to commonly used scalicides, especially in the San Joaquin Valley area.
On the local scene, the Diaprepes citrus root weevil infestation is still confined to a small area around the initial discovery. Trapping elsewhere across the Valley has yielded only our native leaf notcher-root weevils.
But, not outdone by other industries, Asian citrus psyllid was recently discovered in the mid-Valley area. Dr. Vic French will cover this pest in detail in the Citrus Center's October newsletter, which should be in the mail next week.
Water levels on September 25 were reported at 30.54 percent of conservation level, with Mexico's share at 12.10 percent. In most cases, water district storage balances on September 1 were below the amounts of a year ago.
The Texas Citrus Producers Board has received and is currently evaluating research proposals in order to decide which projects will be funded from the monies that growers voluntarily assess on their production. Not surprisingly, the requests for funding exceed the available monies, so some projects will have to be rejected.
Preliminary estimates are that the Florida citrus industry had the lowest on-tree value since the mid-80's during last season. Most indications are that, on average, many growers either barely broke even or lost money whether on grapefruit or oranges and whether fresh or processed. About the brightest spot was Valencias for processing, which commanded a much higher value per pound of solids.
Canker has just been detected in a commercial orchard of 'Flame' grapefruit in southern Martin County, about a mile-and-a-half north of the Martin-Palm Beach county line. Multiple trees within the orchard were infected and were scheduled for destruction over the weekend, followed by tree removal in a buffer radius of 1900 feet. I don't know if you're ever done the math but a circle of 1900-foot radius around a single infected tree is 260 acres. 'Flame', as you may know, is a variety which is a probable bud sport from nucellar 'Henderson' grapefruit.
FALL PEST MANAGEMENT-
Over the years, we have learned that the start of harvesting is no time to stop monitoring groves for pests. Citrus rust mite, Texas citrus mite, false spider mite and other pests can too quickly cause economic damage during the fall. Fall spraying has not always been required-and may not this season-but monitoring should continue through October or later. I remind you of a severe rust mite outbreak in January a couple of seasons ago.
The Citrus IPM Program continues scouting through October, but a number of participants would like to see it go longer. An extended program would cost another few dollars per acre, but prior attempts to extend the effort beyond October have not received adequate support from producers.
Perhaps it's time to explore the feasibility of a split program to
satisfy both groups-the current April 1-October 31 program for the one
group, with an extended program (for an extra fee) for those interested
in a longer scouting effort. I bring this up now so that you can consider
it before the IPM committee meetings in November and the Valley Citrus
Day in December.
JULIAN W. SAULS, Ph.D.
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