South Texas grapefruit groves lost fruit when Hurricane Hanna brought winds of up to 90 mph. ( Courtesy Dale Murden )

Texas citrus growers are assessing the damage to the crop from Hurricane Hanna, but early estimates are 20% to 30% of the fruit was knocked off the trees.

Dale Murden, president of Texas Citrus Mutual, Mission, said the damage from the July 25 storm is “a mixed bag” across the three counties that grow grapefruit and oranges commercially in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. 

“It’s a real hard thing to judge fruit on the ground …  until you can get into the grove and evaluate what’s on the tree, it’s a difficult process,” Murden said Aug. 6. When the area dries out more, a better assessment will be available.

Fruit is still green and won’t begin to take on color until closer to harvest, which doesn’t begin in earnest until October.

Murden said his grove had 11 inches of rain from Hanna, but he’s heard some areas received as many as 20 inches, although he said that might be verified.

A week later, some groves received another 5-6 inches.

The good news is that fruit left on the trees will be large and of high quality.

“With less competition on the tree, that fruit will only get bigger,” he said. “It should be a great start to the season.”

The Texas International Produce Association reported winds in excess of 90 mph. The organization is asking growers affected by Hanna to fill out a damage survey to help the federal Office of Emergency Management and other agencies prioritize recovery efforts

Murden said before the hurricane, the crop looked like it was shaping up to be similar to last year’s crop. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, calendar year shipments for 2019 were 4.58 million 40-pound cartons of grapefruit and 2.2 million 40-pound cartons of oranges.