Prewett
Prewett

Heavy rains in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley have been good for citrus size and drought relief, but they could add to pest pressures.

Citrus growing areas in the valley had received between 4 and 9 inches of rain in September as of Sept. 24, 2 to 3 inches more than usual for that time of year, said T.J. Flowers, partner in Mission, Texas-based Lone Star Citrus Growers.

Ray Prewett, president of Mission-based Texas Citrus Mutual, had heard reports of 10 or 11 inches in some groves.

All that extra rain, though, won’t hurt quality or yields, and it should help fruit size, Flowers said.

“It will add an entire size. If it’s a 48 now, in six weeks it will be a 36.”

Both September and October can be rainy in the valley, Flowers said. It’s better to get rain in September, before harvests get into full swing.

Harvest should begin in earnest in the valley in mid-October, Prewett said.

Prewett agreed with Flowers that the rains will be good for sizing. In addition, growers haven’t had to irrigate as much, and the rains gave a “little help” to the Amistad Reservoir, he said.

Much of the excess rain is running off into the Gulf of Mexico, Flowers said, but some was being captured in watersheds.

“There’s more in the reservoirs now than at this time last year.”

Despite benefits related to fruit size and drought relief, the September rains could complicate efforts to fight pests in the valley, Prewett said.

Wet conditions are ideal for citrus rust mites to thrive in, he said.

“I haven’t heard of any problems yet, but if the rain continues, there could be.”

Looming just as large if not larger is the threat of Asian citrus psyllid infestation, which can produce citrus greening. The Texas citrus industry added a September spraying regimen to its anti-greening efforts this year.

“It’s been hard to do with all the rain we’ve had,” Prewett said.