Citrus Growers Weathering Freezing Temperatures

Brian German Fruits & Vegetables, Industry

A cold front recently moved into California this week, creating some concern among the citrus industry as many areas experienced freezing temperatures. The citrus industry has been fortunate up to now with fairly mild temperatures during the most critical parts of the season when the fruit is most vulnerable. Still, some growers did experience varying levels of damage in their orchards.

“We had two nights we got down below freezing and that caused some damage to our trees,” said Ron Dewey, co-owner of Dewlson Ranch which produces 40 acres of coastal lemons in Santa Maria. “We put some copper hydroxide on early to help with some of it.  We have wind machines and we have micro-sprinklers, and we did all of it the last two nights just trying to keep the trees from freezing.”

New flush on coastal lemon trees was damaged by freezing temperatures.

Growers throughout California, especially in the Central Valley, have been closely monitoring evening temperatures. The higher sugar content in the citrus, combined with the thicker rinds that have developed by this point in the season, have fortunately helped to protect the fruit from too much damage. Producers have also been doing what they can to help mitigate the amount of damage that is caused to their crops. However, the overall amount of damage caused by the freezing temperatures will not immediately be known.

“Looks like we did pretty good. We’ve got some flush kill, looks like. I think the fruit’s all still good. We’re going to pick next week, so I hope it’s all good,” Dewey noted. “It doesn’t look like it from the initial look, but it’ll probably take several days.”

According to the Weather Watch from California Citrus Mutual, Central Valley temperatures have been reaching lows between the mid 20s and lower 30s. The Ventura region appears to have been faring a bit better with overnight temperatures well above 30 degrees. The forecast for much of California is calling for warmer temperatures in the days ahead as the cold weather pattern dissipates.

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West