It is early yet, but all indicators are that the just-begun Texas citrus season
the potential to be among the better ones in several years.
Granted, most citrus seasons in Texas are good. But this one may be even
Texas citrus generates about $150 million in annual revenues, and all
is in the Rio Grande Valley.
"There aren't as many players in the citrus industry as there are in the
industry, but it is a very stable industry in south Texas, and assuming we can
a crop off the trees, we don’t have weather or some other problems that
prevent harvesting, we generally have a pretty successful season," said John
McClung, president of the Texas Produce Association. “You always worry
hurricanes and freezes and diseases, but all that taken into consideration,
Plentiful rain and perfect growing conditions have Texas grapefruit and
trees laden with fruit. Most growers began harvest the last week of September
the first week of October. Following degreening, packing will begin the first
weeks of October and run until May 2011.
“It’s early yet, but every indication is that we will have a good year, absent
catastrophic situation,” Mr. McClung said. “There’s plenty of moisture around,
set is good on the trees, size looks to be nice at this point — better than last
Citrus acreage in Texas remains unchanged from last year; about 28,000
the southern part of the state are in citrus production. Mr. McClung and
Ray Prewett, president of Texas Citrus Mutual, both anticipate yields from this
year’s harvest to be equal to or better than last.
“At this point in the season, there’s nothing but optimism; there’s no reason
pessimism,” Mr. McClung said. “We don’t have anything to be pessimistic
Ray and his guys are working hard on the program to minimize the Asian
psyllid. That’s going to require some spraying, but that is a prophylactic.
Everybody’s got the psyllid — it’s everywhere — but there is no HLB in Texas.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service
confirmed the presence of Elsinoë australis, or sweet orange scab, in Texas
Louisiana in August. It was the first time the fungal pathogen had been
in the United States, though it is prevalent in South America, Fiji and Samoa.
Infected citrus trees were found on residential properties in Harris and Orange
counties in Texas, and in Orleans Parish in Louisiana. The pathogen results in
scab-like lesions on fruit rinds and sometimes leaves and twigs; the damage
superficial, does not affect quality or taste,and poses no threat to humans,
though infected fruit may drop prematurely and the disease may stunt citrus
“The early detection of this disease clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of
Citrus Health Response Program,” said Rebecca Bech, deputy administrator for
APHIS’ Plant Protection & Quarantine program. “We have taken swift action by
issuing emergency action notifications requiring that fruit, leaves, branches
other plant parts remain on these properties to prevent the spread of the
We are communicating closely with our partners in Texas and Louisiana as we
continue to survey to determine the boundaries of the infected areas.”
Said Mr. McClung, “We are mindful of the increased risk all over the country
foreign pests and diseases. As the industry globalizes and volume of
trade increases, when you have that kind of movement of product, you
the risk of importing undesirable pests. I was just looking at some trade
out of Mexico. The volume coming out of Mexico — not just citrus but
— is just astronomical.”
The Mexican fruit fly is another constant threat to Texas citrus, but control
programs have been effective in that battle.
“We had a very mild fruit fly year last year — eight flies the whole year. We’re
hoping we repeat, and [we] have some reason for optimism because the
government [control] program has expanded,” Mr. McClung said. “We can
around the Mexican fruit fly, but the cost is not insignificant. We’ve been
for years, but it’s a pain in the neck, and we’d prefer not to have to.”
Drenching rains throughout the summer did leave some Texas citrus acreage
underwater, but the amount is insignificant and the benefit to the overall crop
from the additional rainfall more than offsets any loss, Mutual’s Mr. Prewett
“For a few people, it’s having an impact; fortunately it’s not that widespread.
do have some places where the river’s out of its bank and some citrus that’s
flooded, but frankly those groves were already damaged. We’re keeping our
fingers crossed we don’t get a lot more rain right away.”
Summed up Mr. McClung, “To be realistic about it, things are looking fine
now. We’re pretty optimistic. There’s no reason to think otherwise at this