Over the years, I have noted that the major purchasers of Texas citrus at local markets and fruit stands has been Winter Texans. As you know, most of these good folks are retired, older people who hail from an area roughly NNW to NNE of the Valley all the way into Canada. If you ask them, most recall that they were introduced to the taste of Texas grapefruit early in life-and they still love it.

I have heard from folks who have helped out in tastings that a lot of kids (whose mommas' claim that they won't like the taste of grapefruit!) really enjoy the grapefruit samples. Many of you have heard my thoughts on the subject, i.e., that grapefruit eaters have to be developed, so we should direct more promotional efforts at children.

In January, the Florida Department of Citrus sponsored a conference on selling for citrus shippers, processors and other marketers-and you can already guess one of the principal messages of that event: CHILDREN. In addition, the nutritional and health aspects of citrus fruits and juices are considered important, though less so than taste, in promoting citrus.

As reported by Ernie Neff in Citrus Industry (March, 2000, p. 27), the president of Just Kid, Inc. revealed that children represent three markets: first, they have substantial disposable income of their own; second, they heavily influence the family's purchases of cereals, fast foods, snacks, beverages and other foods; and third, they represent the future market (i.e., whoever attracts them now will likely keep them in adulthood). Other speakers reinforced those concepts, especially that of children's influence on family food purchases. But, as the president of HealthFocus stated during her presentation, taste rules over health and nutrition, especially when it comes to kids.
So, reversing the downward trends in consumption of fresh citrus and citrus products seems rather a simple idea: find ways to expose more of our children to the good taste of Texas grapefruit and oranges and provide the product in a beverage or snack format that is convenient for them to use. Only then will the kids buy it with their own money and urge their parents to buy it for home. If that happens, they will become the next generation of Texas citrus consumers.

I don't claim to know how to accomplish this, but I do know that there are a few million kids in public schools in Texas-and most of them get both breakfast and lunch at school. If we could just find an economical way to put fresh citrus slices and sections and chilled juices in those school cafeterias, we may not be able to produce enough Texas citrus to satisfy the demand. Did it ever occur to you that the Texas school year and the Texas fresh citrus season overlap from September through May?


Carlos Rubinstein, the new Rio Grande Watermaster, led a spirited discussion at the South Texas Ag Chemical Association's April luncheon in Weslaco. While irrigation district managers understand the allocation system, I suspect that few growers do. Consequently, I include some of the highlights from his presentation-including a bit about the source and ownership of the water.

The 1944 US-Mexico Water Treaty designates the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) as the agency in charge of administering and ensuring compliance with the treaty's provisions. The waters of the Rio Grande between Fort Quitman and the Gulf of Mexico are allotted to the two countries as a percentage ownership by specific, named, source river or tributary that flows into the Rio Grande from either side.

Thus, Mexico receives all flows that originate in the San Juan and Alamo Rivers, Texas receives all flows from the Pecos and Devils Rivers, Good-Enough Spring, and Alamito, Terlingua, San Felipe and Pinto Creeks. In addition, Mexico receives two-thirds of all flows from the Concho, San Diego, San Rodrigo, Escondido and Salado Rivers and Las Vacas Arroyo-the other third goes to Texas. The treaty further provides that Texas will receive a minimum of 350,000 acre feet of water from these six tributaries annually as an average amount in cycles of five years. Finally, all other flows not otherwise allotted are split equally. The latter is direct runoff into the system from anywhere other than the above-named rivers, creeks, springs and arroyos.

The treaty also allows for three dams/reservoirs-Falcon, Amistad and another one between Eagle Pass and Laredo. Given the current environment concerning the environment and endangered species, the third reservoir will probably never be constructed.

IBWC maintains a measurement system on all of the above-named tributaries as the means to determine inflows and ownership. On the last Saturday of each month, IBWC reports the ownership shares of all waters in storage.

So, now you know where the water is supposed to come from and how its ownership between Mexico and Texas is determined. Moreover, IBWC is supposed to ensure compliance with the treaty. Note that the "I" in IBWC stand for International, meaning that IBWC is comprised of people from both Mexico and The U.S.


Once IBWC has assigned ownership of the water that flows into the Rio Grande, the Rio Grande Watermaster then controls, monitors and allocates the U.S. water for some 1600 water rights accounts from Fort Quitman the Gulf, operating under the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission. I assume that a similar entity in Mexico does the same for water rights accounts for Mexico's share in the Rio Grande.

While irrigation water rights account for approximately 89 percent of all U.S. water, and Class A irrigation is 1.7 times as much water as is Class B irrigation, irrigation water rights are subject to certain necessary limitations. These include reserves for municipal and industrial use and an operating reserve.

The municipal reserve is 225,000 acre feet, while the operating reserve can fluctuate between 275,000 and 380,000 acre feet. The former is a one-year supply, replenished monthly, the latter is based upon monthly levels of the reservoir system. An additional 4,600 acre feet is untouchable.

When the Watermaster receives the IBWC report each month, he determines allocations-if any-according to the following procedures. Total storage less dead storage (the 4,600 acre feet?) is reduced first by 225,000 acre feet to maintain the municipal reserve, then it is further reduced by the total end-of-month account balances which have been allocated but not yet used. Then, the operating reserve is subtracted, with the remaining water (if any) being allocated to irrigation accounts. Generally speaking, irrigation allocations will not be made whenever there is less than 50,000 acre feet to allocate.

If the storage volume available for operating reserve is less than 275,000 acre feet, then that amount, whatever it is, will be the operating reserve for that month (and there will be no irrigation allocation). If the volume is less than 150,000 acre feet, then a negative pro rata allocation will be made from all irrigation accounts containing water at that time. In other words a portion of any previously allocated irrigation water that is still in the reservoirs will be taken back to help maintain the 150,000 acre feet reserve. For the individual irrigator, that means that you would lose some, it not all, of your unused allocation from your irrigation district.

A couple of other use-it-or-lose-it situations exist, mostly affecting those holders who pump directly from the river rather than irrigation districts. An allocation not put to beneficial use within two calendar years will be reduced to zero, and no further allocations to that account will be forthcoming until the water right holder advises the Watermaster that the water will be used. Too, a water right holder is not allowed to accumulate in storage more than 1.41 times the annual authorized right.

It usually takes the Watermaster about 12 to 14 days after the IBWC's report to determine and make the allocations, if any. While there are about 1600 accounts to manage, one would think that minimal computing capacity in some sort of database could speed that process substantially.

Finally, your district is notified of the allocation, and orders water based upon anticipated demand-but remember that it takes several days for the water to travel from the dam to the district.


According to the Texas citrus Growers League, only three packinghouses are still operating, but they should finish in other week or two. Texas Valley Citrus Committee reports through April 22 show that early orange shipments finished about 8.2 percent above last season, while navel volume was up 21.1 percent. Overall early and navel production finished some 16.6 percent above last season.

Valencia movement is 58.2 percent ahead of last year, with few orchards left to pick. It seems likely that the Valencia crop will exceed that of last season, but probably will not reach this season's estimated production.

Grapefruit movement is about 0.6 percent behind last year, and will undoubtedly finish several points behind last season in total. Current harvest has already exceeded the estimate, but there isn't a lot of fruit left.


As this is being written, substantial rains are occurring across most of South Texas. I believe Starr County even got a shower or two-but the rest of the Valley is still awaiting the Cinco de Mayo rains. If they don't make it, irrigation will remain high priority to complete fruit set through the final drop period in late May. Obviously, we are being forced into using our limited allocations long before the major stress period of summer.

Citrus rust mite pressure remained high in orchards that suffered from pre-bloom infestations, until growers finished up with post-bloom sprays or TemikŪ applications. Hopefully, that situation is under control now and we can keep it that way.

Fruit set is nearly completed. Normally, the final drop finishes by about May 20 but I'm not so sure that it won't go a little longer in some grapefruit orchards that bloomed early (February) and again more-or-less normally (mid-March). Some reports are that much of the early bloom fruit has dropped, but others indicate that it didn't drop substantially. In the latter situation, you should readily find grapefruit that is nearing baseball size, while the fruit from the normal bloom is getting close to golf ball size.

Continue monitoring pest situations, especially citrus rust mites, during May, as control from post-bloom sprays can play out almost before you know it. TemikŪ should be providing excellent control well into June, but past problems in some groves with some applications suggest that even TemikŪ groves should be monitored periodically.

Meanwhile, think wet, as in rain.

Professor & Extension Horticulturist
2401 East Highway 83
Weslaco TX 78596


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