A year later, citrus industry still feeling the impact of winter storm

Local News

WESLACO, Texas (ValleyCentral) — We are approaching the anniversary of the severe winter storm that knocked out power across Texas for days in February 2021.

Here in the Rio Grande Valley, the freeze impacted citrus growers across the area.

Citrus plants that were about to be picked had their fruit freeze and be ruined by ice. Thousands of citrus plants throughout the RGV that would be producing fruit over the coming years were killed during the freeze as well.

“To put it in numbers, economic numbers, there is an estimate of anywhere from $200 to $300 million in losses,” said Kranthi Mandadi, a professor of plant pathology and microbiology in the Texas A&M school system.

That $200-$300 million range was for losses suffered during the freeze. Mandadi said profits for citrus growers would be impacted for years.

More mature trees were able to survive the freeze, but younger ones that would produce fruit in a few years could not.

For the mature trees, Mandadi said that citrus growers “are seeing them growing back”.

“But for the young ones, those have to replant. So, the damage is very significant,” he said.

Aside from the impact of the storm, a citrus disease referred to as “citrus greening” is also affecting the industry. 

Texas A&M Agrilife is working to find treatments for the disease that can affect both large citrus fields and individual trees in someone’s backyard.

“We help our communities, neighbors in general, to not spread this,” Mandadi said about citrus greening and other citrus plant diseases. “The insects can move on, they don’t just stay in your backyard.”

Despite these challenges facing the citrus growers, Mandadi is hopeful for the future.

“I think Texas will see a comeback of our citrus that we have lost in this freeze,” he said. “We’re just very happy to speak with all of our growers and we support them.”

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