Louisiana Citrus Can Be Found But At A Premium This Year

James A. Vaughn, Parish, Richard L., Fletcher, Jr., Bobby H., Morgan, Johnny W.  |  10/26/2005 2:04:46 AM

LSU AgCenter county agent Alan Vaughn, right; discusses the future of South Louisiana’s citrus industry with Mike D’Amico, a grower who lost his entire operation to Hurricane Katrina and flood waters that accompanied the storm. Vaughn, who works in Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes, said devastation to the citrus crop becomes heavier as you move south of Belle Chase and Jesuit Bend in Plaquemines Parish.

News Release Distributed 10/25/05

Louisiana citrus is another of the state’s agricultural crops heavily damaged by the hurricanes this year.

Officials say some Louisiana citrus will be available despite the devastation brought by Hurricane Katrina to southeastern Louisiana, but they warn it will be at a premium.

Dr. Dick Parish, interim resident director of the LSU AgCenter’s Citrus Research Station near Port Sulphur, said the citrus crop at the research station was destroyed and is an example of the types of situations found by growers in the area – where most Louisiana citrus is grown.

"In addition to the crop being destroyed, every building at the station sustained significant damage," he said, adding,"I think we’ll have to make some changes to the type of research that we are doing here."

For many years, the station has been mainly involved in citrus research, but during the past few years, there have been several Formosan subterranean termite research plots added at the station.

"In the future, our efforts probably will lean more toward termite research, coastal restoration and maybe even some marsh grass research projects," Parish said.

In addition to all of the buildings at the research station being either damaged or destroyed, most of the equipment was submerged under more than 6 feet of saltwater and will have to be replaced.

Parish said the research station sits on 100 acres of land with about 1,300 citrus trees. He said they are taking the "wait and see" approach on what the next steps should be.

"Some of the trees look alive, but I’m afraid the saltwater will eventually kill them," he said.

LSU AgCenter county agent Alan Vaughn said the Citrus Research Station’s predicament is similar to the one faced by farmers in the area. Vaughn, who works in Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes, said more than half of the citrus crop in Plaquemines Parish has been destroyed.

"There will be some citrus harvested in the Jesuit Bend and Belle Chase areas, but it too will be greatly reduced," Vaughn said.

Bobby Fletcher, the LSU AgCenter horticulture agent for Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes, also said there will a reduction in citrus from that area of the state.

"First Tropical Storm Cindy and then hurricanes Katrina and Rita caused some tree damage and caused some fruit to fall following these wind and rain events," Fletcher said. "Growers in southern Terrebonne are still accessing the impacts of the storm surge and resulting salt levels being found in soils in the area."

Mike D’Amico, a grower in lower Plaquemines Parish, said until Katrina came along he had been supplementing his income with his 4-acre grove.

"We had about 450 trees, but all of them were wiped out," D’Amico said. "We don’t have a tree left."

D’Amico said he has been in the citrus business for the past 20 years, but right now he is not sure of his future in the business.

"It’s just too early for me to tell what I’m going to do now. I’ll just have to wait and see what happens," he said.

D’Amico said his grove had from 10 feet to 15 feet of saltwater on it right after the storm and that at least 3 feet of water stayed in the groove for about four weeks.

"Just to tell you how bad it was, I have a two-story house, and I had chest-deep water on the second floor," he explained.

Although supplies of Louisiana citrus are expected to be lower, some say the quality of the limited crop that is harvested will still be good.

"With the devastation in Plaquemines Parish, consumers definitely will have less of a supply of citrus this year compared to the past, but the quality should be fine," Fletcher said.

The LSU AgCenter agent also said navel oranges suffered more than the satsumas because navels are more susceptible to dropping after rain events.

According to LSU AgCenter’s Summary of Agriculture and Natural Resources for 2004, the state’s citrus industry had a value of about $6.3 million – with $5 million of that coming from Plaquemines Parish.

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Contacts:
Alan Vaughn at (504) 908-9722 or avaughn@agcenter.lsu.edu
Bobby Fletcher at (985) 446-1316 or bhfletcher@agcenter.lsu.edu
Dick Parish at (985) 543-4125 or dparish@agcenter.lsu.edu
Writer:
Johnny Morgan at (225) 281-0814 or jmorgan@agcenter.lsu.edu

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