FEBRUARY, 2011       

VOL. 25, NO. 2                                                                             



California Standards for Navel Maturity
January Rains
Florida Crop Freeze Report
SOS Confirmed in Florida and Arizona
Psyllid Sprays
Greening Surveys
Citrus Fiesta Youth ShowCALIFORNIA, HERE WE COME!

California Standards for Navel Maturity

It seems that California shippers have a perceived problem of consumer dislike for early season navels because of taste issues.  Consequently, after a series of studies, the industry is poised to implement new maturity standards for navels next season.  The new standard will be known as the “California Standards”.

Presently, most industries determine orange maturity on the basis of Brix:acid ratios, i.e., the ratio of sugars to acids in the juice.  The current standard in California is for an 8:1 ratio, which roughly translates into 12.5 percent acidity in the juice, which is basically the problem with California navels—they are too acid as compared to the oranges from other industries.  California researchers decades ago pointed out that a 9:1 ratio would be far better, but the industry did not change.  As you might know, the Texas maturity standard is a ratio of 9:1 at Brix levels at or above 9, but is 10:1 at a Brix level of 8.5—both of which result in a sweeter fruit than the 8:1 ratios of California navel oranges.

So, is California going to adopt a 9:1 ratio to provide a sweeter fruit for orange consumers?  No, California has reinvented the wheel and determined that a better test of the maturity of California navels is Brix minus acidity, rather than Brix divided by acidity.  This decision is based in part on a federally funded study of 400 consumers in the Chicago area.

Will this affect Texas consumers?  Probably not, as it is my understanding that regardless of California maturity standards, existing or the new ones, all oranges coming into Texas markets must meet Texas maturity standards. 

January Rains

Believe it or not, the more or less miserable weather that hung around January 10-16 repaid its discomfort in the form of a bit of precipitation.  I drove in light rain all the way to Austin on the 15th (taking the daughter back to UT), but did not anticipate the amount of rain that was falling in the Valley.  Upon my return on Sunday, I emptied 2.3 inches at Weslaco and 3.7 inches NW of La Feria.  We needed it, though it put a brief crimp in harvesting. 

Florida Crop Freeze Report

Following the December cold spells in Florida, the NASS has completed its damage estimates.  The numbers aren’t all that bad, with 62, 87 and 97 percent of early/mids, Valencia and red grapefruit, respectively, being undamaged.  Leaf damage was reported as nominal.  

Only 14 percent of EM sustained damage to one-quarter inch depth, 12 percent at one-half inch and another 12 percent at center cut.  For Valencias, the numbers were 7 percent at one-quarter inch, 4 percent at one-half inch and 2 percent at center.  Grapefruit was essentially less than 1 percent at all cut depths.

From the standpoint of early/mids, there may be some loss of juice volume as the fruit dries out—it depends as much on the weather as on anything, with cool weather slowing the process.  The overall loss should not be all that great, inasmuch as quite a large volume of that crop has already been harvested.  For Valencias, it is unlikely that there will be any juice loss, as the damage was not that great, Valencias are not yet mature and they have the capacity to recover the lost juice as they continue to mature.

SOS Confirmed in Florida and Arizona

On December 23, APHIS confirmed sweet orange scab on fruit samples from a grapefruit tree in Lakeland (Polk County) and a bitter orange in Weston (Broward County), Florida.  Additionally, another sample from a tangerine tree in Sarasota County was confirmed to be SOS on January 10.

Also on January 10, a sample from a tangerine orchard in Maricopa County, Arizona, was confirmed to be SOS.

It looks more and more like this disease has been around for many years, just as we in Texas have maintained ever since it was discovered in the latter part of last year.

Psyllid Sprays

About 84 percent of groves were sprayed in the November area-wide psyllid control effort, and another round is currently underway in advance of the spring flush.  As you know, navel oranges will start to push about mid-February, with round oranges following a couple of weeks later, and grapefruit coming on in early to mid-March.  The idea is to get psyllids practically eliminated from groves before the flush.

A large number of homeowners—natives and winter Texans alike—have called about spraying their trees during the same period.  Not surprising, many of them already have MalathionR in their home gardening arsenal of pesticides.

Greening Surveys

APHIS-PPQ residential survey report through mid-January is out—and still no PCR positive samples of tissue or of psyllids.  Overall, APHIS-PPQ surveyors have pulled almost 30 thousand psyllid samples and nearly 20 thousand tissue samples.  Altogether, the Citrus Center has tested almost 26 thousand psyllid samples, with nearly 7,000 extracted and awaiting PCR analysis.  In addition, nearly 10 thousand plant samples have been tested, with another 2500 extracted and awaiting PCR.

There are discussions about implementing a grove scouting survey effort similar to the residential one, but such has not yet been finalized.  Last month, you read about our plans to develop a “self-scouting” guide for grower use, including a preliminary draft of the effort.  We have refined the text to the point that we think will be most useful and easiest to follow; and are currently narrowing down the pictures to those that best demonstrate exactly what we should be looking for.  We fully expect to have this effort completed and on-line before the end of February.

Texas Citrus Fiesta Youth Show

The Texas Citrus Fiesta Youth Show judging of exhibits took place on Friday night, with the judging and identification contests occurring on Saturday morning.  Approximately 200 FFA youth from eight high schools (and one 4-H Club) entered over 1205 exhibits of 50 different varieties and types of citrus, while 59 of them participated in the identification and judging contests.

The Grand Champion entry was Rio Red grapefruit collected from Heald’s Valley Farms and entered by Kevin Rivera of Sharyland FFA. The Reserve Champion exhibit was Valencia orange collected from Heald’s Valley Farms and entered by Marion Casas of Sharyland FFA. 

The Citrus Identification and Judging Contests, Senior Division, was won by the team from Palmview FFA, while Jesus Fuentes of Mission FFA posted the high individual score.   Mission FFA captured the Junior Division, and the high individual was Miguel Ceron of the Mission team.  Veterans Memorial FFA took the Sub-Junior Division, and the high individual was Zenalda Alaniz of the Veterans Team.

The Eron Wernecke Sweepstakes Award for amassing the most points for winning exhibits was won by Clayton Stephens of Los Fresnos FFA.  Heald’s Valley Farms won the grower award for having the most winning exhibits.

Most people don’t understand how the judging is done, so a brief description is in order.  We use eight judges in total—four who work for the Texas Cooperative Inspection Program and four from the Texas A&M University System here in the Valley.  The judges are paired up in four teams—one from the TCIP group with one from the A&M group in each team—and assigned sections of the exhibits to judge.  That is, one team does grapefruit, one does oranges, one does miscellaneous citrus and the fourth jumps in wherever needed.

When all the entries have been judged, the first place entries in the 10 commercial varieties are moved to a single display table and all judges vote for the Grand Champion entry and then vote for the Reserve Champion.  After that, some of us set up the identification contest for the next morning, while others set up the fruit judging contest.  When that’s all done, I turn in an answer key to Show Officials, thank the judges and we all go home.

I think it would be fitting to acknowledge this year’s judges and their unselfish service.  Most of these judges have volunteered year after year:

Barbara Storz, Hidalgo County Extension Horticulturist;
Jennifer Herrera, Cameron County Extension Horticulturist;
John Watson, Citrus Budwood Program, TAMU-K Citrus Center;
John DaGraca, Director, TAMU-K Citrus Center;
Kevin McLaughlin, Director, Texas Cooperative Inspection Program;
Richard Ruiz, District Supervisor, Texas Cooperative Inspection Program;
Luis Guzman, Texas Cooperative Inspection Program;
Ignacio Garcia, Texas Cooperative Inspection Program.

All the judges get out of it is dinner prior to the judging, the fun of doing it, and our sincere thanks for their efforts.   As for me, I am in charge of the judges, oversee their efforts, resolve any questions about the exhibits, and maintain the web site of images, rules, guidelines for sample selection and showing, sample judging tests, et cetera.  That site can be accessed at http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/citrus/fiesta/fiesta.htm.

Congratulations to all the winners and thanks to all the growers who permitted these youth to select fruit from their groves.  Also, special thanks to the Show Officials and all the volunteers they recruit to do all the work of putting on the Citrus Youth Show.


Professor & Extension Horticulturist
2401 East Highway 83
Weslaco TX 78596



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