Courtesy of California Citrus Mutual
California citrus growers faced significant pest challenges this season due to the unprecedented rainfall from atmospheric rivers. The unusual weather pattern disrupted typical citrus thrips timing in orchards and led to uncontrollable conditions in the field.
Reports from the California Citrus Mutual (CCM) Pest and Disease Task Force indicate that some growers have experienced exterior fruit scarring on as much as 80% of the fruit on individual blocks, primarily affecting navels but with varying impacts to mandarins, lemons, and other citrus varieties.
“It’s been an extremely challenging pest season for citrus growers,” says CCM President Casey Creamer. “The industry did its absolute best in trying to control this unprecedented thrips season. Growers bear that cost while also facing the reality that the pest pressure will result in decreased returns in the marketplace.”
The CCM Marketing Committee estimates that 30% of the navel crop has thrips scarring and the utilized volume will be 8% to 15% under the previous season’s production due to thrips. The Committee also estimates that the mandarin and lemon crops will also be down 5% compared to the previous season’s utilized production.
Visual effects from thrips have no effect on the interior fruit quality, taste or texture. Consumers can still expect the same exceptional eating experience they are used to with California citrus with higher volumes of choice fruit. Fancy fruit, with minimal external scarring or damage, will be a premium commodity this season.
“Despite these challenges, our growers remain optimistic about the fruit quality on the tree this season. The overabundance of water has reservoirs full and has reinvigorated the groves after three years of extreme drought conditions,” says Creamer.