By Frank Giles
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported a drop in estimated Florida orange production in its December crop update. That estimate lowered production by 1 million boxes from the initial forecast of 47 million boxes reported in October.
In advance of USDA’s January estimate, Florida citrus growers discussed how their crops are progressing. Here’s what they had to say:
“So far, this season is proving to be a mixed bag with some positives and negatives. We have some blocks that have shown little to no improvement while others have improved. We continue to change our cultural programs looking for that combination that will sustain improvement across the board. We have had a few success stories in both Brix and production. We are experiencing the same thing with fruit drop. The fact that we have these variables leads me to believe there is a combination of practices that will show wide-scale improvement. The clock is ticking, and the industry is working hard to find that combination of practices.”
— Glenn Beck, Beck Bros. Citrus
The bloom was uniform, and weather conditions were favorable for higher volume this season, but fruit drop is a major issue for the industry. New data on the use of gibberellic acid (GA) to reduce fruit drop from the University of Florida is encouraging. We have commercial-scale trials using GA in our groves that will guide future use.
“Brix in Hamlin oranges is currently extremely low statewide. This continues the downward Brix trend over the last seven years. The industry is transitioning away from Hamlin oranges with low planting rates over the last several years due to HLB and quality concerns. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services recently released the 2021 Budwood Report, and I was thrilled to learn propagations are the highest they’ve been over the past five years. Growers are primarily planting Valencia oranges due to higher HLB tolerance and better quality compared to Hamlins.”
— Larry Black, Peace River Packing
“The best, most diplomatic way to describe the season thus far is to say it has been a frustrating challenge. Many factors contribute to the frustration. Top on my list is the amount of fruit that will not make it to the processing plant. The amount of fruit drop is widespread and vast. The fruit quality, a possible effect of greening, is much lower than seasons’ past for this time of year. It is my hope that with some cooler weather, good caretaking practices and a diligent harvesting workforce, we will be able to bring oranges through to processing.”
— Justin Sorrells, Sorrells Citrus Inc.
“On the positive side, a uniform bloom and clean external appearance has led to higher packouts this season. Fruit drop varies tremendously from grove to grove. In general, I think the drop is worse than we hoped it would be this season. It’s still early in the season, but most blocks are picking out less than they did last season, so further cuts to the USDA forecast won’t come as a surprise. On the negative side, Brix and pound solids are very disappointing for the early oranges. We hope to see better results from the Valencia crop.”
— Steven Callaham, Dundee Citrus Growers Association
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Editor-in-Chief, AgNet Media Publications
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