Agri Leader

Ag News In Brief

Florida orange crop drops 9 percent LAKELAND - The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued its final forecast last Thursday pegging the 2012-2013 Florida orange crop at 133.4 million boxes, down 9 percent from last season. To arrive at the total, the USDA cut Valencias by 700,000 boxes to 66.3 million boxes while early-mid varieties climbed 100,000 boxes to 67.1 million. "This year's crop really shows the devastating effects of HLB, or citrus greening disease," said Michael W. Sparks, executive vice president and CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual. "We had severe fruit drop, and a lot of citrus from stressed trees with HLB ended up on the ground."
"If anything, this season provides stark evidence that growers, scientists and the state and federal governments need to work together to beat this disease and save the $9 billion Florida citrus industry and the 76,000 jobs it supports. The ongoing research looks positive, and I'm optimistic it will ultimately find a solution to HLB but at this time there is no cure." The USDA makes its initial estimate in October of each year and revises it monthly as the crop takes shape until the end of the season in July. The USDA's initial October orange estimate for 2012-2013 was 154 million boxes. During the 2011-2012 season, Florida produced 146.7 million boxes of oranges. Visit for the complete estimate. The 2012-2013 Florida grapefruit crop stayed at 18.4 million boxes. Tangerines and tangelos also remained steady at 3.35 million and 1 million respectively. The yield for from concentrate orange juice decreased slightly to 1.59 gallons per 90-pound box. New fruit fly threatens Minnesota berries ST. PAUL, Minn. - A harmful new fruit fly is threatening Minnesota's berry crops. The tiny spotted wing Drosophila is native to Asia. It was first found in the U.S. in 2008, in California, and quickly caused sizeable losses along the West Coast. The pest's first arrival in Minnesota was detected late last summer, and the state's raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, grapes, cherries and plums are all vulnerable, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported last Wednesday. Officials urge growers to check for the pests and take action, but they concede the fly is so new to the state that there's a lot they don't know. "It is manageable with insecticides," said entomologist Mark Asplen of the University of Minnesota. "If you can detect it and treat it early enough, you can salvage your yield." While that may be a solution, it's not a welcome prospect for a business built on pick-your-own farms, summertime family outings and plucking ripe berries and popping them into your mouth. "Historically, most berry growers in Minnesota have not had to use any insecticides, particularly during the late-season harvests," said Bill Hutchinson, another University of Minnesota entomologist. State and university officials recommend a three-pronged strategy to fight back. Berry growers should set up monitoring traps; dispose of overripe fruit, which is most attractive to the pests; and contact the Minnesota Department of Agriculture for details on how to utilize insecticides Conn. makes early find of EEE in mosquitoes HARTFORD, Conn. - Connecticut health officials say mosquitoes testing positive for Eastern equine encephalitis have been found for the first time this season. The state Mosquito Management Program announced last Tuesday that mosquitoes trapped in Voluntown on July 10 tested positive. It's the earliest since the trapping program began in 1997. Dr. Theodore Andreadis, chief medical entomologist at the agriculture experiment station, says that due to recent heavy rains, the species is very numerous now and will potentially have a longer season to spread the virus to birds and then mosquito species.