In spite of concerns over an ongoing Asian citrus psyllid quarantine and another year of drought conditions across South Texas, Texas citrus harvest continues at a brisk pace across the Rio Grande Valley with positive early reports of a good harvest especially for Texas grapefruit.

According to Valley citrus producers, it's been a challenging year because of concerns over HLB, the citrus disease known commonly as citrus greening disease. For the first time, the disease was confirmed in the Valley in January of last year, the first case of the disease in Texas history.

The disease, first identified in 2005, destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres of citrus in Florida and has also been found in Georgia, South Carolina, and Louisiana. Concerns for the spread of the disease have also increased in California where the Asian citrus psyllid, the moth that spreads the disease, was discovered in southern parts of the state last year.

Response to the discovery of the disease in Texas last year has been called remarkable by officials at the Texas Department of Agriculture, who say a quick response program and responsible participation by Valley growers helped to quickly close the door of opportunity for the spread of the disease in groves across fruit-rich South Texas.

Ray Prewett, president of Citrus Mutual in Mission, said last year that most researchers and growers were not surprised when the disease spread to the Texas Valley. South Texas citrus growers had been involved in a comprehensive management program in recent years to control Asian psyllid populations in an effort to curtail the chances of infection.

Nearly 85 percent of commercial groves participated in the psyllid control program prior to confirmation of the disease, and Prewett says this gave growers “the upper hand” in early control efforts and minimized the spread of the disease once detected.

Citrus production flat

According to the USDA's Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook report published in December, 2012, total U.S. citrus production forecast for 2012-13 is forecast to be flat. In the National Agricultural Statistics Service December crop production report the revised 2012-13 citrus production forecasts were released putting total citrus production unchanged from 2011-12 to 11.7 5 million tons.