AUSTIN (KXAN) — After a devastating freeze in 2021, Texas citrus growers are sharing some surprising news with this year’s harvest — optimism. Two years ago, the historic winter storm that crippled the state was said to have killed or damaged approximately 10% of citrus trees, or 24,000 acres.
Fast forward to this year, experts say surviving trees are showing good results.
Meteorologist Kristen Currie spoke with Dr. Juan Anciso, a professor with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, to see how recent weather extremes, like the 2021 freeze and ongoing drought, have impacted Texas citrus production.
Below is a transcript of their conversation. Edits have been made for clarity.
Kristen Currie, KXAN News: We have some good news when it comes to Texas citrus production in this upcoming harvest. Joining me today is Dr. Juan Anciso with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. Dr. Anciso, talk to me a little bit about what happened in the past with the winter storm and maybe some of damage it did to our state’s citrus production.
Dr. Juan Anciso, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension: We had what we call the “Valentine’s Day Freeze” on February the 14th 2021. It was quite a devastating freeze, even for us here in the Rio Grande Valley. Our temperatures got down to as low as 19 degrees. That temperature is quite severe for citrus trees.
Currie: As far as Texas citrus goes, they can’t handle that kind of cold, right?
Anciso: We kind of use a rule of thumb that’s been around for many, many years. That rule of thumb is when citrus trees undergo temperatures below 26 degrees Fahrenheit for more than four to six hours, we expect that tree to incur severe damage, like limb damage or even tree depth. And I expected that. I mean, I went in expecting a lot of damaged trees after that freeze. But that was not the case.
Currie: That’s so interesting. We met that threshold, and we should assume these orchards died but many didn’t. Talk to me a little bit about the production this year – what are y’all seeing out there across the state?
Anciso: So this past year, we’ve had quite a bit of production. And when I say this past year, we harvest our citrus fruits from October through about May. So we’re just about to start on our next season, October through May and and the crop is looking pretty good.
Currie: With the drought in the heat we’ve had this summer Does that have any sort of effect on the citrus production?
Anciso: If it continues to remain dry and we don’t get water in the watershed area where it collects for Amistad and Falcon, yes, these trees would be in trouble in the coming months because there’d be no water to irrigate.