Despite a year of hurricanes and insect problems, Louisiana citrus growers are having a very good crop year, according to experts with the LSU AgCenter.

Alan Vaughn, LSU AgCenter agent in Plaquemines Parish, said about a quarter of the navel orange crop was knocked off the trees in his area by Hurricane Gustav, but satsumas and other small citrus varieties sustained minimal damage.

“The navels mainly took a hit because of their size. When the winds are gusting, it’s much easier for the heavier navels to be knocked off the trees.”

The satsuma crop, the major citrus crop coming in now, is looking a lot better than expected. Navel oranges are ripening a little bit early.

A total of 17 varieties of citrus are grown in Louisiana, including tangerines, sweet oranges, sweet and sour kumquats and lemons.

Vaughn said the discovery this summer of the Asian citrus psyllid, an insect that caused extreme concern for citrus growers, has had no economic impact on this year’s crop.

The insect has been confirmed in seven parishes in south Louisiana, but the potentially destructive greening disease it carries has been found in only two parishes — Orleans and Washington.

“Before the two hurricanes, the insects had not been observed west of the Atchafalaya River, and we’re just hoping that the winds didn’t blow them beyond that point.”

In the Terrebonne and Lafourche areas where Hurricane Gustav made landfall on Sept. 1, LSU AgCenter agent Barton Joffrion said the situation is a bit different. “We had heavy damage to fruit and to trees in some areas. Fruit drop was anywhere from 50 to 70 percent, and tree damage was about 10 to 20 percent.”

Joffrion said the fruit that survived the summer’s storms is good quality, and the fruit is sweet.

“We were one of the confirmed areas for the psyllid prior to the hurricanes, but the disease is still not confirmed. We are continuing to monitor the situation and we’re following LSU AgCenter recommendations for control of the insect.”

Vaughn said of the 850 acres of citrus grown in the state, 500 are in Plaquemines Parish. “Terrebonne and Lafourche growers have about 150 acres, and the remainder is spread out among 10 to 12 parishes with five or fewer growers in each.”

For additional information on Louisiana citrus, contact Alan Vaughn at (504) 433-3664 or Barton Joffrion at (985) 873-6495.