News Column

CA Citrus Growers Assess Freeze Damage

Jan. 16, 2013

Robert Rodriguez


Four straight nights of freezing temperatures in the San Joaquin Valley have caused minimal to moderate damage to the region's citrus industry, agriculture officials said Monday.

And growers are not out of the woods yet. A freeze warning remains in effect through 10 a.m. today for the central and southern San Joaquin Valley. Lows were forecast from the low-to-middle 20s.

After that, temperatures steadily will be warming. Today's high is forecast for 50 degrees with an overnight low of 32 degrees.

Wednesday's high will be 54 degrees with a low of 36 degrees. By the weekend, daytime highs will be in the low 60s.

That comes as welcome news to citrus growers who have been trying to protect their $1.5 billion crop for several days, using wind machines and irrigation water.

Citrus industry officials estimate citrus growers have spent $17.5 million on frost protection.

Over the weekend, temperatures remained higher than expected -- in the upper 20s and low 30s. But on Sunday night, temperatures fell into the low- and mid-20s -- the coldest yet in what meteorologists predicted as a five-day freeze that began Friday.

In the Valley, naval oranges can withstand temperatures as low as 28 degrees.

The freeze is expected to have caused minimal damage to this year's crop, said Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual.

But the less-tolerant mandarin and lemon crops did not fare as well. Mandarins and lemons have a cold threshold of 32 degrees and likely will see moderate damage, Nelson said.

"I don't think it is going to be a disaster or a crisis," Nelson said. "But there will be some damage out there."

The California Department of Food and Agriculture directed county agriculture commissioners to collect samples of citrus fruit on Monday. The fruit will be held for 72 hours before being examined, to allow for any damage to become visible.

Fred Rinder, Fresno County's deputy agriculture commissioner, agrees that some of the county's mandarin crop will be damaged, but how much remains to be seen. "We will know a lot more later this week," Rinder said.


Distributed by MCT Information Services

Source: (c) 2013 The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.)

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