The cold snap covered many things with ice, even in South Texas where the multi-million dollar citrus industry could be affected if temperatures dip any further.
Citrus growers woke up to chilly news on Wednesday as orange and grapefruit groves showed signs of the freeze.
“That actually serves as a bit of insulation. It will warm up a degree or two with the ice coverage,” Texas Citrus Mutual President Dale Murden said.
Murden, who owns a citrus grove in Harlingen, Texas, performed a quality test by cutting an orange in half. He was pleased to see that it survived the recent cold snap.
“Citrus fruit can take five hours at or below 28 degrees,” he noted.
The weather on Wednesday morning teetered around the freezing point with wind chills in the 20s, crystallizing any moisture on the surface.
Murden was surprised to find parts of the grove frozen. He doesn’t expect temperatures to dip any further this week. Nevertheless, groves in lower-lying areas will need closer monitoring, he said.
Other than keeping the groves free of weeds or irrigating them to keep trees warmer, there isn’t much else growers can do.
“If we were blooming right now and had this happen, that would kill next year’s crop,” he said. “You wouldn’t be looking at all these oranges.”
It’s safe to say that the Texas $200 million citrus industry has not soured.