Citrus Survives in Louisiana

Linda Benedict, James Vaughn  | 10/19/2015 12:22:08 AM

The flood waters have receded from Hurricane Isaac, but damage to the citrus industry will be noticeable for quite a while.

Some areas in the Plaquemine Parish sustained extreme damage to navels and satsumas, according to LSU AgCenter county agent Alan Vaughn.

“More than 200 of the 530 acres of citrus were flooded in the parish,” Vaughn said.

There were some areas in the east side of the parish with 10-15 feet of flooding.

“The big story is all of our citrus will have to be sold locally this year,” Vaughn said. “There just isn’t any to ship out this year.”

The storm caused substantial wind damage in addition to the flooding in areas like Braithwaite, which is on the east bank.

“We’re expecting to harvest about 10 percent of the navels and 20 percent of the satsumas this year,” Vaughn said.

Other parts of the citrus growing region are faring a bit better than Plaquemines Parish, according to LSU AgCenter county agent Barton Joffrion of Terrebonne Parish.

“Some of our producers are doing well with nice, sweet fruit,” Joffrion said. “Others were hit harder with fruit drop and water on trees for three to four days.”

Joffrion said the Houma area citrus growers only had a couple of inches of flooding from Hurricane Isaac.

“We have a lot of fruit on the roadside, at the farmers markets and in stores,” Joffrion said.

Paul Becnel, one of the larger growers on the west bank of Plaquemines Parish says he didn’t suffer as much damage as those across the Mississippi River.

Vaughn said every grower sustained some damage, but there is still some local fruit available.

Becnel has been involved with the LSU AgCenter MarketMaker program for the past year, and this may be the time that it really pays off with consumers in search of local citrus.

MarketMaker is an Internet-based program that provides sellers of food products – especially small and medium-sized operations – an efficient means of communicating product availability to potential buyers.

Plaquemines Parish took a major hit after Hurricane Katrina, when half its citrus acreage was lost, but Vaughn still is optimistic about enough fruit being available for the local market after this storm.

“There will be enough fruit, but it took a beating, so it may be scratched up and not the prettiest,” Vaughn said. “But we do have some available.”

About Satsumas
A tasty treat is a satsuma mandarin grown in Louisiana. Satsumas have a distinctive, sweet flavor and a loose skin that makes them easy to peel – especially for children. Early-season satsumas are usually green with a hint of yellow in the peel. Later varieties are orange.

About the Washington Navel Orange
The most widely available Louisiana-grown fruit is the Washington navel orange. This seedless variety begins to ripen in November. The large Louisiana navel has a deep orange color and a thin skin. These oranges are easy to peel and really juicy.

Along with navels and satsumas, Louisiana orchards also offer lemons, grapefruit and kumquats. So enjoy the entire spectrum of Louisiana citrus throughout the season.

About the Louisiana Citrus Industry
Most of the state’s growers are small-scale, part-time operations while a few commercial growers have many acres. Many of the smaller growers sell directly to the public through roadside stands at or near their orchards as well as from the backs of trucks parked alongside the highway. A few larger growers sell to grocery stores, where their produce is in competition with products from across the country and throughout the world.

Citrus Tips

–Look for firm, heavy fruits with smooth skins free from soft spots.

–Don’t let color be your only guide. Even skins with light green color can hide ripe fruit.

–Citrus will keep several days at room temperature or for several weeks in the refrigerator in vented plastic bags or vegetable bins.

–Small fruit can be just as juicy and sweet as larger fruit.

–Navel oranges make excellent juice, but acids make the juice bitter within four hours. Drink it fresh!

–Lemon juice frozen in ice cube trays and stored in plastic bags will provide “fresh” lemon juice for many months.

Johnny Morgan

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