Despite a triple whammy of drought, high temperatures and a freeze last February that will no doubt lead to a slight decrease in the overall crop, Lone Star Citrus Growers in Mission, TX, expects to have plenty of high-quality fruit coming out of its groves this season.
While the fruit size will also be a bit smaller in general, reflecting a worldwide trend over the past 12 months, “We are still going to have the same full range of sizing we offer every season,” said partner and Sales Manager Trent Bishop. “You can’t have a crop the size of the Texas citrus crop without having some large fruit, and we will. But generally speaking, when you look at historical years and an excess of large fruit, we’re not going to have that sort of abundance.”
What will be abundant is the quality of the crop.
“Once everything reaches maturity levels, we will see a real high concentration of sugars. We had some pretty nice rains this last weekend [Oct. 1-2] and that’s the kind of help that will allow us to start getting some juice content to meet those maturity levels,” Mr. Bishop said. “Of course everything down here is irrigated as well so it’s not like we haven’t had any water. But Mother Nature supplants and helps out more than we can measure. A little bit of rain can go a long way. You get some rain and this fruit on some cooler nights will start sizing up in front of your eyes. It can size up a full size in four to five weeks, maybe less than that with a couple of good rains.”
This year’s crop should be more cosmetically appealing as well. “Because we haven’t had a wet summer, we haven’t had a lot of insect pressure. Without excess rain, you’re not going to see any kind of scarring that may come with insect pressure,” Mr. Bishop said. “We have our winds down here, so you’re always going to have a little of the typical Texas wind scarring. But because it’s been a fairly calm-weather summer, you’re not going to see any additional blemishes.”
Lone Star normally starts harvesting in early October, but this year the company will begin bringing in its first fruit the third week of the month. “For us not to get started until the third week of October, that’s a two-week pushback,” Mr. Bishop said.
Challenges aside, Lone Star’s season should be well within the realm of normal.
Then again, “My partner Jud Flowers told me a long time ago there’s no such thing as a normal season. You take every one as it comes. Whatever you’re in the middle of, that’s your normal season. You adapt to whatever you’re presented and make it work,” Mr. Bishop said.
“I’m a proud Texan and a grapefruit eater and I think we grow arguably the best piece of fruit in the world,” he continued. “A lot of our customers really like to see the Texas deal get started because retail sales [increase] once Texas gets back into the game. It’s something retailers can promote, something their customers wait for, and just like much of the California tree fruit in the summertime, people look forward to that. When they start seeing Texas grapefruit in the stores that’s something they’ve been looking forward to since we wrapped up last April and May.”