Louisiana Citrus History

Our History

1712: Citrus first planted by Father La Ru, a Jesuit Missionary at Fort Mississippi, 35 miles downriver from New Orleans.

1727: Orange seeds from the West Indies planted by Jesuit priests in the city of New Orleans. All citrus trees produced from seed this time forward until the 1870’s.

1800: John Law colonists begin small scale citrus production on the East Bank of the Mississippi around Point a la Hache. Larger groves planted shortly after at the Woodland, Magnolia, and Orange Farm Plantations. Westbank groves planted down to Venice thereafter.

1840-1850: Satsuma mandarins introduced from Japan. First American satsumas were planted in Algiers, LA. Florida plantings soon followed.

1870: Two of the largest growers, George Schoenberger and W. S. Reddick introduce budding as a more rapid method of propagating trees. They also begin using sour orange and trifoliate orange as hardy rootstock sources.

1838: Oranges begin to be produced in marketable quantities, with a price point of $15 per 1,000 oranges. Fruit was shipped loose to market in sailing boats.

1840-1850: Mediterranean mandarin type citrus introduced to the U.S. by the Italian consulate in New Orleans.

1840-1900: Citrus fruits begin to be sorted, graded, and packed in boxes by the Weingerer, Laux, and Meyer Co. Steamboats used to transport boxed citrus to market.

Mr. Merrill’s orange orchard in 1871.

1904: Citrus produced in Plaquemines Parish exhibited at the St. Louis World’s Fair.

1912-1913: ‘Owari’ satsumas are imported as budded trees from Japan, becoming the most popular variety, eventually replacing ‘Ikeda’.

1914: Citrus Canker first detected in Louisiana.

1916: Growers combined to build a drainage system in Buras, LA. Pumps were used to reclaim low-lying rice land previously cultivated by slaves for use in growing citrus. 80% of citrus grown in Plaquemines Parish is possible because of this work.

Old crate label.

1937: 238,000 boxes of citrus produced in Louisiana (compared to 46 million in CA and 27 million in FL).

1930’s citrus packing co-op in Buras, Louisiana.

1940: Citrus Canker eradicated in Louisiana.

1945: A survey showed that Louisiana Navels and Sweets are the most widely grown varieties of citrus, making up a combined 40% of production. Satsumas contribute 20%, and Valencias 15%.

1947 Orange Festival in Plaquemines Parish.

1946: Louisiana reaches maximum output, producing 410,000 boxes this year.

1948: The LSU AgCenter establishes the Coastal Area Station to research and provide support for the Louisiana citrus industry.

1951: A large freeze devastates the industry, resulting in the closure of nine packing houses.

1956: Lulich’s winery begins using a machine to crush oranges. The machine can squeeze enough juice for 200 gallons of wine in thirty minutes, a task that previously took two men all day.

1944 producing and bottling orange wine.

1959: Louisiana produces 220,000 boxes of citrus, the largest yield since the 1951 freeze.

1960: There are twelve remaining packing houses in the citrus region. Fruit is hauled by tractor-driven wagon or trucks. Fruit is picked before it is fully ripe and treated with ethelene gas to color up. Growers charged 72 cents per bushel for this service.

1962: Severe cold in January and again twice in early 1963. Production drops. 15,000 boxes produced each year in 1962 and 1963.

1965: Hurricane Betsy. No reported production throughout remainder of 1960’s.

1975: Industry recovers somewhat to 2,700 acres, 2,200 in Plaquemines Parish.

1989: Severe freeze kills all trees, Lake Pontchartrain partially freezes over. Groves replanted.

2005: Hurricane Katrina results in the loss of roughly half of all trees in Plaquemines Parish.

The LSU AgCenter Coastal Area Research Station flooding as a result of Hurricane Katrina.

2007: Plaquemines Parish reports a bumper crop.

2008: Citrus Greening first detected in Algiers.

2011: The LSU AgCenter Coastal Research Station closes due to budget cuts and saltwater intrusion. Citrus research work is shifted to the Hammond Research Station.

2012: Roughly 1,000 acres of citrus remain in Louisiana, the majority planted in satsumas and navel oranges. Hurricane Isaac destroys many trees in lower Plaquemines and in St. Bernard Parishes.

Citrus harvested in Plaquemines Parish using wooden crates.

2013: Citrus Canker reemerges in Louisiana, first detected in June. A quarantine zone is established.

Have a piece of history to share? Please help me build this timeline by emailing Anna at atimmerman@agcenter.lsu.edu.

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