California citrus dodges New Years’ freeze bullet

California citrus dodges New Years’ freeze bullet

Predicted low temperatures failed to dip low enough New Year's Eve and Day which allowed California citrus growers to dodge a fairly typical December-January freeze period. Cold temperatures occurred throughout the citrus growing areas which required frost protection as early as 10 p.m. on New Year's Eve.    

Predicted low temperatures failed to dip low enough New Year's Eve and Day which allowed California citrus growers to dodge a fairly typical December-January freeze.

Cold temperatures occurred throughout the citrus growing areas which required frost protection as early as 10 p.m. on New Year's Eve. 

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California Citrus Mutual (CCM) reports the counties of Riverside, Kern, Tulare, Fresno, and Madera had temperatures as low as 26 degrees without protection for short durations. The use of wind machines and water raised grove temperatures by an average 3-4 degrees assuring no significant fruit damage for the major varieties - Navel oranges, lemons, and mandarins.

According to CCM President Joel Nelsen, “(There is) no doubt the early start helped keep temperatures higher throughout the night and with lows not reaching 26 degrees, except in the coldest unprotected areas.

“We conclude it was a long night but a safe night," Nelsen said.

Wind machines

On average, Mandarin and lemon growers, on average, ran their equipment at least 10 hours while Navel orange growers, depending on location, ran equipment for six hours.

Some of the coldest pockets in areas of Kern County and spots in Tulare and Madera counties had been harvested so potential damage was non-existent.

Last season, a major freeze event occurred the first week of December creating much more vulnerability for the industry. Over the last 30 days, large amounts of fruit were harvested from these areas to eliminate potential crop losses.

Based on California 2013-2014 agricultural citrus statistics, the California citrus industry was valued at $2.4 billion in value with another $1.75 billion generated in economic value.

The crop estimate for the 2014-2015 Navel orange season was 78 million cartons in the San Joaquin Valley and another five million cartons in Southern California. 

CCM says about 25 percent of the current orange crop is harvested. Mandarin tonnage is estimated at 50 million, five-pound cartons this year and about 70 percent of the crop is still on the tree.

The vast majority of lemon tonnage is in Ventura County and still on the trees. The San Joaquin Valley has an estimated 10 million carton lemon crop with about 80 percent of the crop on the trees. The entire crop is estimated at approximately 45 million cartons.

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