(UPDATED COVERAGE, June 8) Hurricane Dolly may have left a larger dent in the Texas citrus crop than previously thought.

Nevertheless, that could bode well for this season’s forecast, according to a researcher at the Texas A&M University citrus center in Weslaco.

Last year’s harvest was 12% less than the previous year, according to the U.S. Department of agriculture. Julian Sauls, a researcher at Texas A&M University’s citrus center in Weslaco, said the production drop was closer to 20% if the projections were taken into account. 

“Based on historical trends in citrus production here, the 2008-2009 citrus harvest should have been up by 5 or 6% from the year before,” Sauls said, in a news release. “Instead, it was down nearly 12%. Combining those two factors it brings the total loss close to 20% that I estimated two days after Dolly passed through.”

 Loss estimates immediately after the storm made landfall July 28 ranged from 5% to 20%.

The USDA reported the citrus harvest at 278 tons.

“It’s no stretch of the imagination, and it’s obvious, though some argue,” Sauls said, “that the losses to Dolly just weren’t that significant. Dolly put her foot down in the (Rio Grande) Valley and it’s most logical to say she was to blame for these losses.”

Texas citrus typically alternates between a large crop and a slightly smaller crop. This season should be a smaller crop set year for grapefruit, which makes up 70% to 75% of the 26,000 acres grown in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

Sauls expects the industry to recover strong this season.

“This should be an up year,” he said. “It should come back really strong after two consecutive down years.”