Valley Citrus Growers Escape Major Freeze Damage
|A mandarin orchard east of Clovis Ca braves the cold temps.|
According to Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual, TODAY valley citrus growers breathed a collective sigh of relief last night as temperatures failed to reach projected lows. In most areas temperatures stayed in the upper 20s and were manageable with frost protection measures.
Field reports indicate that if there is damage to the Valley's orange crop, it will be minuscule. This is primarily attributed to the fruit's maturity and high sugar content, which has provided additional internal protection from cold temperatures. However, the less cold tolerant Mandarin crop is expected to incur some damage which will likely be concentrated in the coldest areas, particularly to the outside rows where frost protection is less effective.
|This wind machine was churning late|
Saturday night to help ward off frost.
Field reports suggest that Friday night's rain storm was more helpful than not by allowing weakened fruit a reprieve from cold temperatures. Last night's warmer temperatures were also a welcome relief following significant concern Saturday that forecast extreme low overnight temperatures would expose fruit to external damage.
Growers ran wind machines Saturday evening for an average of 9 hours in preparation for the cold temperatures that did not materialize. Citrus Mutual estimates that the total cost to the industry has been $17.5 million since Tuesday night to protect roughly 80% of the Valley's $1.5 million citrus crop which remains to be harvest.
Overall damage will be determined in the coming weeks as temperatures rise across the Valley. Internal damage cannot be accurately assessed until this freeze episode concludes. It is estimated that over 4.5 billion mandarins and 11 billion oranges must be evaluated for damage.
Critical temperatures are in the forecast for the next two nights.