Bloom Good, but Growers ‘Waiting on Pins and Needles’

Crime

Ned Hancock

Citrus bloom has been good this year, but growers are anxious to see what fruit set will be this summer, says Highlands County grower Ned Hancock.

“We were encouraged by the bloom,” Hancock says. “Everybody was scared after (Hurricane) Irma, (about) what would happen. We’re all kind of waiting on pins and needles to see what kind of crop we actually set this summer, because historically it’s not been a good crop behind a storm or disaster like we’ve just had.”

Irma hit the citrus industry hard in September 2017, knocking much fruit to the ground before harvest season began, tumbling many trees and leaving many groves underwater.

Hancock says he wonders if the industry will get back to the good crop level that most growers expected in 2017 before Irma hit. “I don’t think so … but that’s kind of my hope,” he says. Pre-Irma, many growers were expecting the best crop they’d had in years. Production had plummeted since HLB was discovered in Florida in 2005.

“Overall, I see what I think is pretty good tree health, and I think we’re still setting ourselves up to make a comeback as an industry — with the exception, of course, of all the trees we lost due to the storm,” Hancock says. “Next year’s crop, I think, is going to be solid, but again I think following the storm it’s just going to be a difficult time.”

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Ernie Neff

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large