The cold snap that whipped across Texas this week brought snow all the way to beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. It is also bringing headaches for citrus growers at the southern tip of the state. Texas is the nation’s third-largest citrus-producing state, behind California and Florida.
Dale Murden, president of Texas Citrus Mutual, a trade group that represents the interests of citrus growers in the state, stated that growers were “about 50% harvested to date on grapefruit,” when the brutally cold weather hit early this week, and were “just beginning to harvest our late Valencia orange.”
“Most everyone saw temps of 21 degrees for several hours,” Murden, who also is a grower, said. “We will no doubt lose some of the crop as we are seeing some ice buildup inside the fruit.” Murden said that when temperatures dip below 28 degrees and stay below that mark for five hours or longer, the fruit that is still on branches begins to freeze on the inside.
Citrus groves in Texas are largely situated in the Lower Rio Grande Valley in parts of Hidalgo, Cameron and Willacy counties, Murden said. Several groves are located in Mission, a city of about 85,000 that is situated about 240 miles south of San Antonio, right along the border with Mexico. “Come and enjoy the warm weather,” the city says on its website.
It wasn’t just the unseasonable cold that was causing problems for growers. The wind also foiled growers’ attempts to protect the fruit. “The wind was blowing so hard” on Sunday night, Murden said, that “most measures to warm trees up couldn’t work.”
Photo source: Dreamstime.com