Freezing temps expected to cause minimal damage to Texas citrus

Freezing weather was predicted in the Rio Grande Valley and along the Gulf Coast the firs week in January. These temperatures, however, should not have a significant effect on citrus crops, Texas Cooperative Extension reports.

“Even if it were to freeze, it takes around four or five hours of constant freezing temperatures for ice to begin developing in the fruit,” said Extension horticulturist Dr. Julian Sauls.

“If this happens, the juice can begin leaking out. When this takes place, the fruits will dry out, lose weight and eventually begin to fall.”

Although there have been scattered frosts throughout the Valley, there is no frost or ice damage expected in citrus fruit anytime soon. The latest information shows that there should only be a potential dip to freezing levels just before sunrise.

“Although citrus production is slightly down from last year, the citrus fruit quality has greatly increased,” Sauls said. In fact, it is better than it has been in a number of years. This is especially true in grapefruit.

Not only are fruit sizes optimal but the cooler weather in November and December has improved the coloring of the fruit.

“Cooler weather breaks down the chlorophyll that is in the rind of the fruit and produces a deeper color.”

“Navel and orange prices are running a little better than last year. Overall, prices are as good as or better than last year, and that is probably due to the better quality of the fruit itself,” Sauls said.

Fruit that is acceptable for shipping is much higher this year than last. Distributors are not having to go through 20 tons of fruit to get 10 tons of packable material. Most of the fruit that producers are growing meets consumer's standards.

Texas's reputation for citrus centers around grapefruit. In fact, the red grapefruit is the state fruit of Texas. In terms of production, grapefruit represents nearly 80 percent of overall citrus production and around 60 percent of citrus acreage. President Bush, the former governor of Texas, even designated Jan. 23 to be the state's official Red Grapefruit Day.

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