Citrus grower Jonathan Brown of Bethel Farms in Arcadia reacts to the Oct. 12 initial U.S. Department of Agriculture citrus crop forecast of 54 million boxes of Florida oranges. He also discusses damage from Hurricane Irma.
“I was a little bit impressed that it (the forecast) came out where it did,” Brown says. “I was kind of expecting it to be a little bit lower. I hope we have that much, and hopefully a little bit more.”
Regarding damage from Hurricane Irma, Brown says, “We were pretty blessed, actually. We came out pretty good.” He estimates damage to Bethel Farms groves at 20 percent, but notes it was slightly worse where there was some canker. “Trees still have plenty of fruit on them. We’ll be probably flat or possibly in some blocks even up a little bit this year over last year.”
He says some trees tipped over on outside rows, and there was some damage to older trees that were already sick. “But as far as most of our healthy trees, they’re all intact and in pretty good shape … The one thing that could be a downfall a little bit later is that we did have a lot of flooding. We had over 18 inches of rain, so we had quite a bit of flooding, and the trees did sit in water for about 12 days in some areas.”
Brown thinks his groves did OK because of his company’s concentration on root systems and because the groves were in a relatively good spot geographically. “I think that if we can get the trees (from nurseries), we’re going to be able to do a lot of resetting … We’re going to have to do a lot of work to recoup those trees that were torn up by the storm.”
Brown says growers themselves will have much to do with the availability of nursery trees to replace hurricane-damaged trees. He suggests that growers plan to plant new trees, order them and give a deposit to nurseries. “If you come up last minute and you want trees, there may not be any,” he says.