Texas citrus industry still recovering from freeze of 30 years ago

On Tuesday night, parts of the Rio Grande Valley received a frost warning. But just the word ‘frost’ is enough to put growers on edge, as most of the industry is still recovering from a big freeze that took place over 30 years ago. The most recent significant devastation happened in 2011.

The National Weather Service office in Brownsville, Texas, keeps track of all freeze events across the Valley. For the lower Valley temperatures drop to 32 degrees or under (0 degrees Celsius) every two out of three years. For the mid-Valley, it's three out of five years. For the upper Valley and ranch lands, it’s nine out of ten years.

Fred Karle, a citrus grower in the Valley, says he's been able to handle most these freezes over the years except for two which nearly cost him his entire business. Both were in the ‘80s. Those were major arctic outbreaks in ‘83 and ‘89 in which major temperatures dropped below 20 degrees (-6.7o Celsius).

Krgv.com learned from Texas Citrus Mutual that, before both freezes, there were about 69,000 acres of citrus in the Valley. After the freezes, it’s down to around 20,000. Since then, the industry is still recovering. Currently, there are about 27,000 acres of citrus groves across the Valley. This is less than half of where it was over 35 years ago.

Karle says when temperatures drop to 26 degrees (-3.3o Celsius) for several hours, that’s when he begins to really worry, as that's when you can start to see damage to both the fruit and trees.

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