South Texas citrus apparently OK after cold snap

Oranges ripe on a tree in a grove in Clermont, Fla., Monday, Jan. 4, 2010. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

January 18, 2010 8:26:49 AM PST
Most south Texas citrus apparently avoided damage from an early January cold snap, but the fate of some crops will not be known for a few weeks, experts say. Julian Sauls with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service in Weslaco said most citrus in the area appeared to survive cold weather that reached Texas on Jan. 6.

"Citrus-wise, we dodged a pretty good bullet or two or three," Sauls said. "I've got a whole bunch of young grapefruit planted and they don't even seem to be burned."

J&D Produce owner James Bassetti in Edinburg said the chilly weather ruined his beets, Swiss chard, dill weed, lettuce and other leafy greens, with overall damage at $250,000.

Sugarcane, when subjected to cold, can lose the ability to produce sugar. Steve Bearden with Rio Grande Valley Sugar Growers Inc. said growers are now focused on harvesting to salvage whatever they can before the plants rot.

"In most cases we've got up to six weeks before it goes bad," Bearden said.

Ray Prewett, president of Texas Citrus Mutual, said if the damage had been extensive, growers would have picked fruit from trees and rushed to turn it into juice before it spoiled.

"If we had a lot of fruit that was just obviously not going to be able to be shipped as fresh fruit, we would see trucks lined up outside our juice plants," Prewett said.