Highlands County Citrus Growers President’s Column

The groves around Highlands County are really responding to the rainfall events that have been occurring on a regular basis.

This column by HCCGA President Jim Snively originally appeared in Citrus Connection.

SEBRING, Fla. – Our 2013/2014 Crop is in the books. 104.4 million boxes of oranges. It is done, it’s over, so let’s move on and put this one behind us! It is time to strip trees, ride out blocks, count trees, and see what we think we may have for the 2014/2015 Season. It just seems to be a revolving door. I just hope that when it stops this year, the Florida Citrus Industry is looking at a much better result than what it experienced this past year.

Word on the street is that almost everybody that does tree stripping to evaluate the crop size for the upcoming season is going at it. As usual those that reveal their results to the industry will do so in mid-August. This will be our first indication as to where the crop will be. Let’s just hope that the forecasts that are developed this year from the various sources are closer to the actual crop than what they have been over the past two years.

The last two years the early forecasters have estimated a crop that was 20% higher than the actual final crop, and the USDA has forecasted crops over the last two years that averaged approximately 15% higher than the actual final crop for those seasons. Crop forecasting has become a very difficult task due to disease and late bloom playing into the equation. Both of these factors have certainly made it extremely difficult to accurately predict fruit drop throughout the season and fruit size. Hopefully the more consistent bloom of this spring will create better accuracy in this year’s crop estimates.

The groves around Highlands County are really responding to the rainfall events that have been occurring on a regular basis. This phenomenon always makes me realize how critical water quality and distribution is for a citrus tree. We have always realized this benefit, but have never really taken steps, until now, to try and mimic this result. It has taken HLB to show us that the slightest stress or imbalance to a citrus tree’s ecosystem can actually make a significant difference in its ability to produce either a crop or an economically viable crop. There have been many experts out there that have tried to beat it into our heads, but now we can truly see the impacts of inadequate programs.

Dr. Morgan and some aggressive growers around the industry are showing some impressive results with water quality management as well as irrigation scheduling. I highly recommend that growers look into the work that has been done to improve water quality for increasing nutrient uptake and root development.

Recently I have had several conversations with growers around the state concerning the “Abandoned Grove” situation that is present throughout the citrus producing counties of our state. I even had one grower demand that I do something about it. As we all know this is a continuing concern for those of us that are working to maintain as low a Psyllid population as we possibly can to try to slow down the spread of HLB in our groves. There have been some efforts in some counties, but maybe it is time that this subject is brought back to the forefront.

There will have to be some good incentives developed in order to persuade individuals to remove trees on these properties as well as good enforcement if those developed requirements are not met. This will require a coordinated effort between the local county property appraisers, County Commissions, and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. We should all do what we can to support this initiative. In closing, keep sprayin, fertilizin, herbicidin, waterin, drainin, sproutin, pullin vines, mowin, and plantin!!!!!!