(California Citrus Mutual)
San Joaquin Valley (SJV) citrus growers were up Sunday night (Dec. 8) against below freezing conditions for the sixth consecutive evening.
Although higher overnight temperatures materialized over the weekend, Sunday night’s extremely low temperatures will likely result in some damage to the SJV’s $1.5 billion citrus crop.
Cold daytime temperatures Sunday set the stage for a rough night. Wind machines started as early as 8 p.m. Unlike previous nights, an inversion layer failed to materialize leaving wind protection unsuccessful at keeping temperatures above critical levels.
Coupled with longer duration at low temperatures, damage is anticipated for the already weakened fruit.
The Navel orange crop is expected to make it out of this freeze episode with some damage. The extent of the damage will be determined in the coming weeks.
The less cold tolerant Mandarin crop should have more damage.
While damage is expected, it is certainly not at levels close to damage in the last significant freeze events in 1998 and 1990.
“The cold weather we are experiencing now is by no means comparable to the severe temperatures and damage incurred in 1990, or even 1998,” says California Citrus Mutual (CCM) President Joel Nelsen.
“The frost protection technology we have today has allowed producers to better prepare for freeze conditions and protect the crop from serious damage.”
The industry is confident that will be a sufficient level of harvested fruit and undamaged fruit to supply the market.
Equipment fatigue and fuel supply are the concern now. In six nights, wind machines have run for an average of 56 hours. Field reports suggest mechanical issues may inhibit frost protection efforts for the duration of this freeze event.
Additionally, as cold temperatures persist, growers are worried that the availability of fuel supplies to power wind machines may become limited.
CCM estimates that the overall cost to the industry for six nights of frost protection is $23 million.
CCM is a non-profit trade association of citrus growers with approximately 2,200 members representing about 70 percent of California's 285,000-acre, $2 billion citrus industry.
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