This season’s citrus crop is bountiful in Louisiana thanks to a lack of hurricanes — but it could be threatened by disease.
LSU AgCenter extension agent in Plaquemines Parish Alan Vaughn said last year’s crop suffered heavily from wind damage from Hurricane Isaac. There have been no storms this year, so the citrus crop has seen improvement.
But there is concern about citrus canker disease, which was found in July in City Park in New Orleans and has spread to Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes.
Canker disease is windborne and is not curable once it infects a citrus tree. The disease, which causes lesions on leaves and fruit, makes trees drop their fruit too early.
Meanwhile in Florida – a major citrus producing state – the crop is being wiped out by greening citrus disease, said Vaughn. The bug that spreads the disease has been found in Louisiana, but the disease itself has not been located. So far, it is “too exotic a problem to worry about,” he said.
Satsumas, the most popular citrus fruit for Louisiana growers as well as consumers because they are seedless and easy to peel, are already on the market. Navel oranges will be available in the next couple of weeks, Vaughn said.
Vaughn said citrus trees are the most common backyard crop. Seventeen varieties of citrus are grown in Louisiana, he said.
Even if citrus fruit has green skin, that does not necessarily mean it is not sweet. Vaughn said slightly green skin on ripe fruit is caused by early warm weather during the growing season. Citrus fruit skin can even go back to being green after turning orange if the weather is warm.
According to the AgCenter’s 2012 “Louisiana Summary: Agriculture and Natural Resources,” about 600 acres of citrus trees were grown last year, the majority of which was satsumas. About 164,000 bushels of citrus were
produced in 2012 and the gross farm value for all citrus was $5.2 million dollars.
“Louisiana Summary” also points out that most of Louisiana’s citrus fruit is sold at roadside stands and farmers markets.
There are nearly 400 citrus growers in the state located in 18 parishes, all below I-10.
Plaquemines Parish is the leading citrus producer