Deep East Texas Association of Soil & Water Conservation Districts hold
Deep East Texas Association of Soil & Water Conservation Districts holds meeting and tour
Story by Beverly Moseley
A quality product and exceptional customer service are keys to success at Saxon Becnel and Sons citrus tree nursery.
ï¿½I try to pull my very best trees to please every customer,ï¿½ said Ricky Becnel, who provided a walking tour of the family nursery in conjunction with a Deep East Texas Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districtï¿½s meeting.
The Becnel familyï¿½s Texas facility is an offshoot of their Belle Chase, La., citrus tree nursery operation. Becnel is the fifth generation to operate the family business, along with his two brothers. His father remains involved in the business.
Upwards of twenty people toured greenhouses that can hold 100,000 plants each. One insect free screened house had 54,000 trees of 25 citrus varieties in it. Citrus varieties included Imported Meyer Lemon, Sweet Kumquat, Thornless Key Lime, Ponderosa Lemon and Clementine Mandarin.
One of the biggest challenges their business faces is making sure their product is clean of insects through the growth stages.
ï¿½We want the label of certified virus free,ï¿½ he said, adding thatï¿½s why the houses are screened from insects.
Labor remains at the top of input costs for the operation. All the work is done by hand from counting the individual plants as they are loaded on trucks to the grafting of root stocks. The topic of tree grafting created a lot of interest and questions as the group watched skilled workers grafting plants.
Becnel explained that a certain variety of citrus would work best when grafted to a certain root stock. For instance a navel orange can be grafted to a subzero root stock plant. This grafting will produce early fruit production in a tree, along with creating a fruit and plant that is more cold hardy.
The family expects to sell more than 200,000 trees this fall through May of next year. Their customers include Home Depot, Loweï¿½s and many small, privately owned nurseries. Becnel said they expect to sell an estimated 270,000 citrus trees next fall.
They also bulk ship to locations across the United States.
ï¿½Weï¿½re probably in half the country now,ï¿½ Becnel said.
The Deep East Texas Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts meeting
was held at a local restaurant after the citrus tree nursery tour. Pat Hudson,
Area IV director of the Association of Texas Soil and Water Conservation Districts,
lead the meeting.
Ricky Becnel (front, left) leads the tour group through an insect free screened greenhouse.
Citrus trees in various stages of growth blanket the nursery.
All work at the citrus tree nursery is done by hand, including the skillful grafting of root stock.