It has been a struggle to get through these hot times and now it's getting cooler, it's even rained, and suddenly that beautiful citrus that has just broken color and is an orange globe splits. It's most common in navels, but all citrus that ripen in the fall – tight-skinned satsuma mandarins, early clementines, tangelos and blood oranges. With the hot summer, it seems that a lot of citrus fruit have accelerated their maturity and are ready, ripe and sweet right now, and maybe ready to split.
And that's the problem. Drought stress. Salt stress due to drought. Water stress due to miserly watering. A heat wave in July. And a weird fall with maybe rain and maybe no rain and is ¼ inch considered rain or just a dedusting? Irregular watering is the key to splitting this time of year. The sugar builds, the pressure to suck in water builds and the fruit has been held back by a constrained water pattern and suddenly some water comes and it goes straight to the fruit and Boom, it splits.
Years of drought, and a stressed tree are a perfect set up for a citrus splitting in fall varieties like navel and satsuma. The days have turned cooler and there's less sense on the part of the irrigator to give the tree water and suddenly out of nowhere, there is rain. That wonderful stuff comes down and all seems right with the world, but then you notice that the mandarin fruit are splitting. Rats? Nope, a dehydrated fruit that has taken on more water than its skin can take in and the fruit splits. This is called an abiotic disorder or disease. However, it's not really a disease, but a problem brought on by environmental conditions. Or poor watering practices.
Fruit that is not yet ripe, like ‘Valencias' and later maturing mandarins are fine because they haven't developed the sugar content and have a firmer skin. They then develop during the rainy season when soil moisture is more regular. Or used to be more regular. With dry, warm winters this may become more or a problem in these later varieties, as well.
Several factors contribute to fruit splitting. Studies indicate that changes in weather, including temperature, relative humidity and wind may exaggerate splitting. The amount of water in the tree changes due to the weather condition, which causes the fruit to shrink. Then with rewetting, the fruit swells and bursts. In the navel orange, it usually occurs at the weakest spot, which is the navel. In other fruit, like blood orange, it can occur as a side split, as seen in the photo below.
Proper irrigation and other cultural practices can help reduce fruit spitting. Maintaining adequate but not excessive soil moisture is very important. A large area of soil around a tree should be watered since roots normally grow somewhat beyond the edge of the canopy. Wet the soil to a depth of at least 2 feet, then allow it to become somewhat dry in the top few inches before irrigating again. Applying a layer of coarse organic mulch under the canopy beginning at least a foot from the trunk can help moderate soil moisture and soil temperature variation.
Once split, the fruit is not going to recover. It's best to get it off the tree so that it doesn't rot and encourage rodents.
There have been some complaints about satsuma mandarin fruit having problems. These are prone to a rind/skin/peel breakdown when the fruit is not picked promptly. It's not clear what the cause is - wet winter, warm winter - but it is less of a problem if the fruit is picked when it is mature. A lot of the time in southern California, satsumas will develop good flavor and sweetness, but for lack of cool weather, they don't turn bright orange, a hallmark of the fruit. So growers will leave the fruit on longer, hoping for color, but the fruit becomes over mature, and more susceptible to breakdown. This weakening of the peel then opens it up to infection by fungi, such as Alternaria. In warm winters, the peel matures more rapidly and is more susceptible. Early maturing varieties like ‘Okitsuwase' are especially prone to breakdown later in the season, since their rind matures earlier. They end up being a mess, as can be seen in the photo below.
Navels can have a similar problem in these winters with erratic rainfall. Common wisdom is you don't irrigate in the winter, right? Wrong. With no, low and widely spaced rain events, the tree roots dry out, and rewet with rain. Navels are building their sugar in the winter and they become suction balls for water as the sugar increases. The fruit will continue to grow as the tree takes up water. When the roots run out of water, and then are suddenly rewetted during this period, the fruit can suck up water so rapidly that the skin cant expand fast enough and will split. So this is what happens with uneven irrigation or rainfall this time of year. One of those abiotic problems in citrus.
Something hit the citrus trees of Riverside in late December 2017. Some vandal spraying herbicide? It was too widespread. It was all over town, orchards and backyards. It was on the north and east sides of trees. It didn't happen in Ventura or Santa Barbara. It probably happened to a lot of other plant species, but our correspondent had eyes only for citrus.
It sure looks like it could have been a cold, freezing wind, but on closer consultation with our Citrus Specialist, Peggy Mauk who also directs the Agricultural Operations at UC Riverside – it was the demon wind. The Satan Wind. The Santa Ana that dried out the trees that had not gotten sufficient water to cool themselves and had dried out on the windward side of the tree and orchard. Burned, in effect. This is the side of the orchard that dries out the most. It's what's called the “clothes line” effect. The margins that dry first because of the greater exposure to wind, sun and usually lower humidity. In this case, way lower. And by the time the damage was noticed a week later, the winds had been forgotten. Expect more water stress in our future.
Task Force ACP-HLB update
To date, 232 residential citrus trees in Southern California have tested positive for the HLB bacterium. All have been, or are being, removed. Most were in neighborhoods in LA and Orange counties. Three of the trees were in Riverside, and although they were residential trees, the resulting 5-mile radius quarantine for HLB is affecting a few growers in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
The latest HLB quarantine map with the running tally of HLB detections in the state can be found at the Citrus Insider website: https://citrusinsider.org/maps/. The maps are updated every week.
As HLB detections increase and spread closer to commercial citrus, it is a good time to consider removing any citrus trees that are unloved, uncared for, or not worth the time and resources required to protect them from ACP and HLB. Untreated citrus can serve as a reservoir for ACP and possibly the disease HLB, increasing the risk to other citrus in the area. The Citrus Matters ACT NOW program may be able to assist with tree removal at little or no charge to you. Find more information at: https://citrusmatters.cropscience.bayer.us/commercial-grower/act-program. Or if you need referrals for tree removal services, contact Sandra or Cressida.
ACP-HLB program meetings
The California Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Committee (CPDPC) is made up of growers and other representatives of the citrus industry, working with the California Department of Agriculture (CDFA) and others. The CPDPC is funded in large part by grower assessments and steers the statewide effort to protect our citrus from ACP and HLB. The full committee meets every other month, with subcommittees meeting in between. All committee and subcommittee meetings are public and open to anyone to attend or listen remotely via computer or phone. Agendas for upcoming meetings and minutes from previous meetings are posted on the CDFA website: https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/citruscommittee/.
Coastal citrus representative needed for CPDPC
There is an opening for a grower representative from the coast to serve on the CPDPC. Be a part of deciding how grower funds are spent to protect our industry. Details can be found here: https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/egov/Press_Releases/Press_Release.asp?PRnum=17-069.
Santa Paula crew boss workshop
On Wednesday, Nov. 29, the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program and California Citrus Mutual are hosting a free train-the-trainer workshop in Santa Paula. This Spanish-only workshop for crew bosses, ranch managers, etc., focuses on preventing human-aided spread of ACP and HLB. It has been approved by the Department of Pesticide Regulation for 2 hours of continuing education in the "other" category. For details see:
Feel free to contact your ACP-HLB grower liaisons if you have any questions or need assistance:
The latest edition of Topics in Subtropics newsletter is out, Elizabeth Fichtner as editor. Read on.
TOPICS IN THIS ISSUE:
Why has California red scale been so difficult to control?
Navel Orange Nitrogen Fertilization
Recent Advances in Understanding the History of Olive Domestication
- Upcoming UC Olive Center Events