From the Grove: Rainy Days Bring Citrus Rays
As we lounged in the sun, soaking up some much-needed rest and relaxation this summer, our groves were abuzz with activity. The standout star this summer? Rain! After enduring one of the driest starts to the season in decades, summer finally brought relief in some much needed rain. Since Memorial Day, our groves have been nourished with a staggering 35-40 inches of rain; this is approximately 50% above average for this time of year. Hurricane Idalia, while causing concern elsewhere, actually did us a favor by contributing 7-8 inches of rain in August alone.
For us citrus farmers, rain is like liquid gold. All our other efforts to maintain a healthy crop contribute to production and nutrient density, but an abundance of rain is the driver of a fruitful crop. Unfortunately, the rain came a little too late this year to have a significant impact on this season’s citrus. The silver lining? Our groves are now primed for a bountiful 2024 harvest.
During the month of August, we applied another round of compost to the groves. This organic material is a natural method for supplying carbon, beneficial biology and long-term nutrients to the crop. The extra rain we received heavily contributed to the uptake of these nutrients in the soil. As a result, our citrus trees are very green and our summer flush looks robust and healthy. This is all important for setting flowers and fruit for next season’s crop.
While we love rain, too much of a good thing can have detrimental consequences. With the extra rain and wind, conditions were ripe for the spread of citrus canker, which is a bacteria that causes big spots on the leaves and fruit that closely resemble a human canker sore or lesion. If left unchecked, canker not only ruins the appearance of the fruit but also causes them to plummet to the ground, adding extra stress to the trees.. To combat canker, we applied summer oil over Labor Day Weekend, which is known to stymie canker spread. This organic spray consists of fish oil and yeast extract that provides food to the plant, is a microbial stimulant and helps activate the plants’ defense mechanisms. By curbing the spread of canker, we safeguarded our trees’ health and boosted their overall resistance to diseases.
With rain comes weeds. September means a renewed focus on weed eating and management as we head into the final weeks towards harvest season. Alongside several other organic applications, we’re laying the foundation in September for a promising and fruitful harvest in the coming months. Mother Nature may have thrown us a few curveballs this summer, but we’re ready to reap the rewards of her blessings in the groves.