David H. Picha, Boudreaux, James E., Castro, Boris A., Schultz, Bruce | 4/30/2005 2:40:46 AM
ABBEVILLE – Citrus growers from California and Spain are beating Louisiana satsuma producers with inferior products, according to an LSU AgCenter horticulture professor.
"Our quality here in Louisiana is second to none. We just don’t do a good job of marketing," said Dr. David Picha at a citrus seminar held by the LSU AgCenter earlier this month in Abbeville.
The Abbeville seminar on March 10 attracted 42 people, and a total of 180 people attended a similar Lafayette session March 16.
Picha said that in the United Kingdom, satsumas are the No. 2 fruit behind navel oranges.
Louisiana’s competition in the satsuma market comes from California – where sellers produce a product with a better appearance.
California satsumas are chemically treated with ethylene to remove the green appearance from the fruit, making it appear riper, according to Picha, but that has nothing to do with flavor. Consumers simply prefer yellow-orangish peel, perceiving it to signify ripeness, to the green peel found on Louisiana satsumas early in the season.
Spanish producers are exporting clementines, similar to satsumas, to the United States. Last year Spain exported 90,000 tons of clementines to this country – far out-selling Louisiana satsumas, the LSU AgCenter professor said.
Picha said it’s common for Louisiana groceries to sell Spanish clementines but not Louisiana satsumas.
Dr. Jimmy Boudreaux, another LSU AgCenter horticulture professor who also has a citrus orchard in Terrebonne Parish, offered several suggestions for a successful fruit operation.
Boudreaux said he never fails to fertilize his trees in February at the rate of a pound for each year of a tree’s life. He also said he keeps the ground bare of vegetation under the trees by using herbicides, which keeps down competition for water and nutrients and helps the ground warm sooner during cold weather.
"I started an orchard as a hobby to make money and to teach my kids to work," Boudreaux said.
Dr. Boris Castro, an LSU AgCenter entomologist, advised growers on insect control. He also advised growers to watch for the diaprepes weevil. One of the insects was found in November in New Orleans, and its larva would be a serious threat to citrus trees, sweet potatoes and sugarcane if the weevil becomes a permanent Louisiana resident.
Among those at the session in Abbeville was Jeb Guidry, a retired teacher and coach, who has been growing citrus fruit for 35 years on his small farm southwest of Kaplan.
"It all started as a hobby. It’s been fun," he said, surrounded by rows of grapefruit and orange trees.
Guidry estimates his orchard has produced 11 tons of fruit this growing season. He grows lemons, navel oranges, blood oranges, grapefruit, Japanese plum, satsumas and mandarins.
Guidry admits he overestimated demand for grapefruit and planted too many trees.
"What I don’t have is enough kumquats," he said.
Guidry lives in a remote corner of Vermilion Parish, so he doesn’t have a problem with trespassers.
"The only animal I have a problem with is possums," Guidry said. They usually eat the fruit of only one tree.
Guidry said he sells to wholesalers in North Louisiana and Lake Charles, and the only retail outlet he deals with is the Comeaux Fruit Stand in Kaplan.
His first harvest is for Halloween favors passed out in Kaplan. "Everybody gets a bag of candy and one Satsuma," he said.
Guidry also said he gave away 6,000 pounds of fruit to charity, including St. Joseph’s Diner in Lafayette.
As for the way to produce fruit on your own, Guidry said the easiest fruit tree for a novice grower is satsuma.
"Two trees and you can feed a whole neighborhood," he said.
David Picha at (225) 578-2158 or firstname.lastname@example.org
James Boudreaux at (225) 578-2222 or email@example.com
Boris Castro at (225) 578-7386 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Bruce Schultz at (337) 296-5257 or email@example.com