Hurricane Zeta deals devastating blow to citrus, nursery producers in Plaquemines Parish

Agriculture

Plaquemines Parish satsuma trees suffered heavy damage from Hurricane Zeta’s winds on Oct. 28. Photo by Joe Willis/LSU AgCenter

BELLE CHASSE, La. (LSU AgCenter) – Citrus growers and nurseries were hit hard by the winds of Hurricane Zeta as it passed through southeast Louisiana on Oct. 28.

Navel oranges seem to have been the hardest hit citrus crop, while satsumas fared better because of the way they are attached to the trees.

LSU AgCenter horticulture agent Joe Willis said there is damage throughout the citrus growing regions in Plaquemines and surrounding parishes.

“We have some growers with up to 75% of their citrus laying on the ground,” he said.

Ben Becnel Jr., a Plaquemines Parish citrus grower, said every grower in the area took a hard hit from the storm.

“We lost at least half of our citrus crop,” Becnel said. “Normally storms come in August and September when the fruit is small, but this one came at harvest time.”

What that means is the heavier fruit this time of year falls off the tree more easily during a wind event, he said.

Becnel said he lost between 200 and 300 trees, which is about 25% of his total grove.

“We were about half finished with the satsuma harvest and about two weeks from the start of the navels,” he said. “I would say that about 20% of the fruit that stayed on the trees are damaged.”

Becnel said he will replant, but it will be several years with decreased income and increased expenses to put things back together.

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