|IN THIS ISSUE:
The February, 1999, issue of Citrus Industry magazine included a series of articles about the Texas citrus industry. While there were no revelations that would surprise veteran Texas citrus growers, the articles are easy reading.
The February, 1999, issue of Citrograph featured the California freeze of last December. Generally, the situation does not appear so bleak as it did-but there is still a lot of "wait-and-see", since the publication deadline occurred rather soon after the freeze.
The March, 1999, issue of National Geographic featured a good explanation of the El Niņo/La Niņa phenomenon. According to the article, there have been 23 El Niņos and 15 La Niņas since 1900. Too, the four strongest El Niņos have occurred since 1980 but the article did not indicate the relative severity of La Niņas. It does show graphics of peak evolution of El Niņo in December, 1997, and peak evolution of La Niņa in December, 1998.
Since El Niņos bring wetter and cooler conditions in the Southwest and fewer Atlantic hurricanes, you might recall that 1997 was a wet year, with few hurricanes. By contrast, the La Niņa of 1998 brought record high temperatures and little rain to the Valley, with numerous Gulf/Atlantic hurricanes and tropical storms.
What's on tap for 1999? Check it out on-line at www.nationalgeographic.com/
Through February 20, data from TVCC show that Texas fresh grapefruit movement is about 6.8 percent ahead of last year-most of which has been in domestic trade, since export grapefruit is ahead only about 0.6 percent. The total grapefruit harvest is up about 8.4 percent, which means that the amount of processed grapefruit is also running ahead of last year-about 15.3 percent greater.
Excluding navels, early orange shipments are some 16.8 percent ahead of last year. Navels, however, are behind about 6.1 percent. Both types are nearly finished for the season, with only about 7.1 percent of estimated production yet to go. Total harvest of early oranges and navels combined is currently about 2.9 percent behind last season, with the volume processed being some 36.0 percent down.
The limited Valencia harvest is just beginning.
As a percentage of the estimated crop, Texas still has better than a third of its grapefruit, about 7 percent of its early oranges and nearly all of its Valencia crop to be harvested.
MEETINGS AND MORE MEETINGS-
The Texas Agricultural Extension Service will be conducting a water measurement workshop for irrigation district managers and personnel in McAllen on March 23, with a tour of Hidalgo County District No. 1 following. The complete program was not available at this time, so you'll have to contact Brad Cowan, Hidalgo County Extension Agent, for the details on time and place. Although the program is directed at irrigation district personnel, the public is welcome. The program team will also be available for direct consultation with irrigation districts throughout that week.
Either on March 23 or 24, Rio Farms is planning to host a program on the use of water meters for agricultural producers in the Delta Lake irrigation district. Final details will have to be secured from either Rio Farms or the Delta Lake District. Apparently, that irrigation district has decided that mandatory metering is the best way to assure water conservation and equitable allocations among users.
Texas Citrus Mutual will be holding its Annual Mid-Year meeting at the Citrus Center in Weslaco on March 26. That program usually starts with breakfast and runs most of the day. Contact TCM for more information.
CITRUS PEST UPDATE-
Citrus rust mites continue to be at relatively low levels in some orchards due to the relatively warm winter. False spider mites continue to be present on the mature fruit and may pose a more serious problem this year if it stays hot and dry. The armored scale complex, especially Florida red scale, continues to be observed even though crawler populations have been extremely low this winter. The citrus leafminer continues to increase in the new growth flushes but are at low levels and are expected to increase only slightly when the more vigorous growth flushes appear after an irrigation or spring rain. Due to the fall rains, greasy spot and melanose have been infecting the new leaves which will be this year's mature leaves and we should expect these diseases to peak this spring. The problem with these diseases is that one fungicide (copper) application is not going to solve the disease problem immediately and/or indefinitely. These diseases have to be managed in a manner that incorporates a strategy that looks at the health of the trees for the next year or so. This may mean a spring application of copper and possibly a summer fungicide application in order to manage this disease at least for this year. Also, the problem of anthracnose on the fruit which was mainly found in the Harlingen and La Feria areas has surfaced in other parts of the Valley, including the Mission area.
It seems to me that orange bloom and flush have been a littler later and slower this year, while grapefruit is about on schedule or maybe even a little early. About the only significance I attach to that is that an earlier grapefruit bloom should result in a lesser incidence of unshapely grapefruit.
Fertilizer and herbicide rigs are still rolling through orchards as the new season gets underway. I don't necessarily like to do either operation so long as there is still fruit to be harvested. Herbicide booms knock off a lot of fruit, plus PHI of the materials used must be carefully monitored in relation to final harvesting.
Offhand, I can't recall any research results concerning spring fertilization and natural regreening of unharvested fruit. It seems logical that a big boost in leaf nitrogen levels at this time should result in more regreening-but I don't know that for sure.
As always, once the spring flush commences, the remaining grapefruit get softer and experience greater post-harvest decay losses. This phenomenon really needs more investigation, especially in light of the fact that about one-third of our grapefruit crop is still in the field.
How nice it would be if all irrigation water use were metered at the field. Only then will wasteful irrigators start conserving water and get cut off when they exhaust their allocation. It was very discouraging to many citrus growers last year when their irrigation district quit pumping in June or July even though those growers still had unused allocations.
Although we started this year with about the same amount of water in storage as last year, we are actually in worse shape now than then. The reason is that much of the Valley enjoyed pretty good rains in February of 1998, while rains this February were neither substantial nor widespread, having fallen mostly in Cameron and Willacy counties. Thus, much of the Valley has not received any significant rainfall since October-and the February rain in Cameron County was mostly well below the amount of an irrigation, so it didn't last very long. At Weslaco, the Experiment Station has recorded a rainfall deficit of 2.52 inches below normal for January and February.
Hopefully, this situation won't continue.
JULIAN W. SAULS, Ph.D.
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