Sep, 2007       

VOL. 21, NO. 9                                                                             





Remember the days—not so long ago—when there was always a front page color picture and article about the start of the new season? That usually occurred the week after Labor Day, and Mission Shippers was the featured packinghouse that was opening the season.

Well, Labor Day has passed, but then Mission Shippers has as well (yeah, I know the facility is still in use by Heald’s Valley Farms). So, who’s going to find the grove (or groves) of oranges that will pass maturity in the next week or two?  Maybe there’s an old Ruby or Henderson block that will pass soon after mid-September, though I would not expect Rio to pass that early.


It always kind of puzzled me as to the actual variety of oranges that Mission picked to start the season, as I knew of no other variety but Parson Brown that matured that early in the season. The fruit were apparently marketed as Pineapples, but true Pineapple does not mature in the Valley until about Thanksgiving.

Some oldtimers in the industry who knew a bit about the various varieties of oranges claim that the Texas industry pretty much called any seedy orange “Pineapple”.  That explains marketing these very early fruit as Pineapple, but does nothing to clear up its true identity—were those fruit Parson Brown?  I can’t speak for all of them, but I do recall one year at the TPA in San Antonio when a juice machine exhibitor was using Parson Brown oranges from a Mission Shippers carton...


By all accounts, we were very fortunate to have that ridge backing westward to our north, which steered Hurricane Dean well to the south.  Frankly, the projected track just before that fateful weekend was centered on the mouth of the river.

Now, Hurricane Felix is another Category 5 storm that came across the Caribbean.  It reached Cat 5 status, then weakened a bit, and regained Cat 5 status this morning as it was about to go ashore in Nicaragua just south of its border with Honduras.  The track puts it into Honduras, then Guatemala, and then Mexico, with all the mountains expected to sap the winds completely. Forecasters do not expect it to get back over the open ocean, primarily because of a ridge across the southern US that is keeping it on a westerly course.

Hurricane Henriette is a minimum strength cyclone coming out of the Pacific into Baja California.  Ironically, Henriette may be déjà vu all over again, as another Hurricane Henriette went into Baja California on September 4, 1995, in the same area where the current one is expected to make landfall today.

Meanwhile, there is a disturbance off the Florida coast north of the Bahamas that is showing a little circulation.  And a developing tropical wave between Africa and the Lesser Antilles is another possible storm in the making.  The weather folks are all keeping close tabs on both of these areas, so stay tuned…

While the storms have been no threat to us to date, the possibility of our getting more rain is certainly there. Felix will die out, but its remnants could swing more northerly and could come into South Texas in the next few days.  Henriette, on the other hand, is expected to track across northern Mexico and enter the US just east of the Arizona-New Mexico border, so it could bring rain into west Texas and ultimately to parts of the state that really don’t need any more rain for the time being.

Speaking of rain, the drought in Texas has been officially declared to be broken.  All that really implies is that we can probably start planning for the start of the next one.  Still, there is no question that Texas has been wet and the Valley has not been exception.

The opening weekend of whitewing season was also wet—at least from where I live to the east.  My son and I didn’t get out of the truck on Saturday due to intermittent rain, and we didn’t even go out on Sunday, since conditions did not appear to be any better.

And September is our rainy season…


After last month’s newsletter, a couple of growers asked me about good fishing spots (beats me) and another questioned whether or not I had quit the citrus business (no, I love this stuff too much). 

The pre-season Florida orange estimates are in and are worthy of mention.  First, though, to put these in perspective, the initial USDA estimate for last season called for 135 million boxes, which was adjusted downward through the season to end at 128.9 million. 

Louis Dreyfus Citrus, Inc. estimates 180 million 90-pound boxes of oranges in Florida for 2007-08.  Their number last season was 25 million boxes higher than the USDA’s October estimate and 31.1 million higher than the final tally.

Elizabeth Steger estimates 198 million boxes this season.  Her estimate last year was for 123 million, which came in 12 million below the initial USDA number, but ended up only 5.9 million below the actual number.

The number of trees in production is a major component of the estimate—the USDA used a figure of 65.8 million bearing orange trees in its 2007 crop forecast.  Obviously, if that number is significantly higher than actual, the estimate will also be higher.  Because of the loss of a significant number of trees to canker and greening, attrition is probably higher than expected. 

Toward developing a better figure, the Florida Ag Statistics Service will release a tree inventory for the top seven producing counties on September 14.


According to work at the University of Buffalo, the various flavonoids in orange juice may be good medicine for diabetics. In a limited study, researchers measured oxidative stress levels of four groups of eight people. Each group received 300 kilocalories of sugars from glucose, fructose, saccharin water, or orange juice.  Those on glucose experienced significantly increased oxidative stress levels, while those on orange juice had no oxidative stress.

One of the problems with oxidative stress is that it can lead to the destruction of cells, which, in turn, can lead to increased risk of arteriosclerosis. While arteriosclerosis can affect a lot of people, diabetics are at somewhat greater risk. 
Given that orange juice contains fructose, sucrose, glucose and several other sugars, the lack of oxidative stress in the OJ group must be due to something else.  Obviously, the belief is that anti-oxidants in the juice, especially the flavonoids, are responsible.

This study is a limited one and I think it requires a good deal more work before definitive recommendations can be made. Even so, given the occurrence of diabetes, I will certainly continue to drink my daily glass of OJ.


While it may be blasphemy to mention it, I suspect that most of us are familiar with "Simply Orange” NFC juice—check the chilled juice section of your local HEB.  It’s in a clear plastic carafe with a fairly wide mouth, holding 59 ounces.

Despite the seemingly never-ending decline in the consumption of grapefruit and grapefruit juice products, Coca Cola has made a remarkable decision to produce NFC grapefruit juice.  “Simply Grapefruit” will contain no artificial sweeteners and will have a slightly bitter taste. The juice will be a blend of different varieties of grapefruit.

According to Coke, “Simply Grapefruit” NFC chilled juice will be shipping by mid-September. Obviously, the juice being blended has to have come from fruit produced south of the Equator or it has been stored since the last season—as single strength, not-from-concentrate.

You can see the product at img/imagebrands/downloads/lg_simply_apple_grapefruit.jpg.  In this image, the “Simply Apple” NFC (another new product that is also scheduled for shipment by mid-month) appears considerably darker than the grapefruit juice, the latter of which really looks more like dark orange juice. The grapefruit carafe is suggested at $3.89, the apple at $3.49.


It would appear that the California Valencia crop was substantially less damaged by the freeze last winter than was claimed in the attendant hype, as the California industry expects to continue shipping Valencias at least through October.  Presently, it’s reported that the demand for the small sizes (i.e., school lunches) of 113s and 138s is substantially higher than the supply of those sizes. Too, the industry anticipates a good supply of 88s and larger through October.

Wonder what the freeze did to the coming crop of navels (and other oranges), since it apparently didn’t do nearly so much damage to the 2007 crop as was widely reported last spring?


Professor & Extension Horticulturist
2401 East Highway 83
Weslaco TX 78596


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