The area of Falfurrias, Texas, was a very prosperous citrus-growing region from 1909 until 1951, according to Romulo Montilla, who has a ranch there. “However, in 1951 there was a freezing temperature that killed close to 90% of the citrus. In 1967, the remaining citrus was eliminated with another terrible freeze.”
Montilla and others recently began working to return citrus to the rural area of Falfurrias about 70 miles north of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Texas’ primary citrus region. “Last year, a group of concerned farmers and business-oriented people decided to create the Farmers Exchange Co-op Association with the intention to bring back citrus,” Montilla reports. “The plan is to plant lime, oranges, grapefruit, tangerines and mandarins. There are already more than 20 farmers invested in this project.”
Montilla plans to plant 40 acres of limes, mandarins, tangerines and grapefruit. He says freezes will be a concern, but growers will utilize expert technical support, cold-tolerant rootstocks and good production techniques to face that threat.
Approximately 100 people attended a meeting about citrus in Falfurrias on April 7, says James Hearn, a research assistant with Texas A&M Kingsville Citrus Center in Weslaco. Weslaco is in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Hearn reports that the Farmers Exchange Co-op Association has already elected a board, with Larry Boykin as president.
“It is hoped that the co-op will have its own greenhouse nurseries, teams for land preparation, planting of trees, scouting and spraying for pests, harvesting and packing, and finally the marketing of the fruit.” Hearn says plans also include a packing shed for fresh fruit and a juice plant.
“There is no reason citrus can’t be grown there,” Hearn says. “The area is on the same latitude as Florida. It has excellent soil, water and climate for producing citrus. The citrus industry was active for 50 years in Falfurrias. Today, we have better rootstocks and varieties and better growing practices.”
Learn more about citrus in Texas here.
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