Depending on crop, growers report a good or bad season

08/06/2013 10:55:00 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

The 2012-13 growing season was difficult for many Florida growers.

Producers from all growing regions report an unusual season full of challenges, including weather and disease perils and worker shortages.

Others, however, report favorable growing conditions.

An odd year on the River

Vicky BoydDan Richey, chief executive officer of Riverfront Groves LLC in Vero Beach, says citrus growers in the Indian River growing region endured a mixed bag.

Some growers experienced a good season whereas others faced challenges.

The determining issue was how the groves responded to weather conditions, he says.

“It was a very odd year,” Richey says. “The fruit set and fruit overall wasn’t one of our best crops ever. We think a very odd weather pattern contributed to a lot of the challenges we had. We had rain when we didn’t need it and didn’t get the rain when we needed it. It was a very different year.”

Richey says he doesn’t anticipate similar weather problems this season and says conditions so far look favorable.

He attributed last season’s record fruit drop to the weather, not citrus greening.

The 2012-13 season’s warmer winter produced a sporadic bloom period instead of a bouquet bloom, Richey says.

Growers adjusted their horticultural programs to the upcoming season’s good but prolonged bloom, he says.

Greening remains the industry’s top challenge, Richey says.

Depressing citrus fruit drop in the interior

The high fruit drop made for a more depressing than challenging year for central and south Florida citrus growers, says Ellis Hunt Jr., president of Hunt Bros. Inc. in Lake Wales.

The grower-shipper packed 93 percent of its fruit in Polk County and 99 percent in its LaBelle and Immokalee groves.

With the fruit drop, Hunt Bros. was concerned it would harvest fewer boxes but felt good about the way the season went, especially in South Florida and Polk County, Hunt says.

“The season wasn’t challenging as much as depressing,” he says. “My cousin kept saying to not look at the ground, but look at the tree and see what we have left. That’s a positive way of looking at something, and he turned out to be correct this season. We had some blocks that looked like they had a box of fruit on every tree on the ground but ultimately, it picked out well.”

On this season’s bloom, Hunt says most of the crop he’s seeing is probably in the second boom with a small percentage expected to bloom in the first bloom.

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