Some Fresh Citrus Problems Begin in the Grove

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mark ritenour

Some fresh citrus problems arise or can be addressed in the packinghouse; others must be dealt with earlier, in the grove. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher Mark Ritenour discusses three problems that must be addressed in the grove. They are peel breakdown, fruit decay and pesticide residues. Ritenour summarizes a presentation he made at this year’s Citrus Expo.

He says peel breakdown can be a sporadic issue for fresh-fruit growers. “But when we have a problem with it, it usually is quite widespread and can be very severe,” Ritenour says. “It’s a matter of being vigilant, to see how the health of the fruit is out there and to see indications of breakdown. Usually, peel breakdown is later in the season … It’s usually after the first of the year. Sometimes we get peel breakdown when we get cold fronts coming through with a low relative humidity. And in that case, if you start seeing a problem, usually you can wait a couple weeks. Usually the grove will recover, and you won’t have problems afterward.” He says water stress and nutrient imbalance are among the causes of peel breakdown.

Fruit decay has been a problem recently in the face of warmer winters, Ritenour says. “We can’t do anything postharvest to help reduce that,” he says. If a grower sees decay on fruit, “then you’ll want to consider going with local markets, close markets, not going for export because you’re going to have a lot more problems with that,” he says. He adds that there are no good pre-harvest solutions for fruit decay.

Pesticide residues are another concern for growers, especially those growing fruit for export. Ritenour says growers usually don’t have a pesticide residue if they stick with label rates for application and ship in the United States. “But when you go into export markets … they all set their own individual residue tolerances, and some of the stuff we use, they don’t even have a tolerance for,” he says. “It’s OK if all the residue degrades before it (fruit) gets there, but we don’t have a lot of information on how fast things degrade. So you really need to know when you harvest a crop and know the market you’re going to go to. Look at the production records and make sure that you didn’t put something on there that might show up in the destination market.”

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Ernie Neff

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large