Tuesday evening forecasts and dew points all pointed to a critical night with significant lows into Wednesday morning but temperatures remained well above trigger points for the San Joaquin Valley citrus industry. “Our stations clearly indicate that very few locations dipped below 32 degrees for any period of time,” reports CCM President Joel Nelsen. “Throughout the night and early morning a few locations experienced short durations of cold temperatures requiring some form of frost protection.”
In the San Joaquin Valley over 200,000 acres of citrus are farmed with the primary varieties being oranges and mandarin oranges. Lemons and other varieties constitute approximately 15% of the Valley’s citrus crop. Mandarin and lemon varieties are the most vulnerable because of thinner skin. Approximately 75% of the tree crop remains on the tree. Over 16,000 wind machines are employed to protect the $1.6 billion Valley crop with the vast majority fueled by propane.
CCM estimates that for each hour a wind machine runs growers will incur a cost of $40 or a Valley wide expense of an estimated $550,000 per hour. Water pumping costs create another two dollars per acre in cost per day. “Given the drought situation most growers are being very judicious in utilizing ground water and our information is that pumping groundwater was minimized last night,” Nelsen continues.
Temperatures in other major producing areas of California, primarily Ventura, Riverside and Imperial Counties, all had temperatures well above the threshold of concern. According to USDA California supplies 85% of the nation’s fresh citrus needs while employing 12,000 people on a year round basis.
The last critical freeze for the industry was December, 2013 with eight consecutive nights of critical temperatures and prior to that January, 2007 the industry experienced significant losses.
Citrus Mutual is a voluntary membership trade association consisting of growers who represent almost 75% of the state’s citrus industry.
For more from the California Citrus Mutual, visit its website.