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Wet winter expected to slow California citrus harvest

“Full moon, clear sky, no wind, and snow on the mountains,” Chris MacArthur, Riverside councilman explained was a terrifying sight for California citrus growers in a phone interview.

The threat of frost is with growers every winter. But this winter has seen many wet nights turning MacArthur groves in the Green Zone into a “muddy mess.”

“Obviously when it’s raining as much as it has been, it’s hard to get into the groves and get the crop off the tree. ... It makes it a little bit more difficult for growers. It makes it a little bit more difficult for packers.”

“If the rind is very mature, it will turn into a sponge,” said Alan Washburn of Washburn and Sons Pest Control in Riverside.

Wet and cold weather raise the possibility of fungal diseases. Washburn mentioned brown rot, which happens when water hits the ground and splashes spores onto tree trunks and low-hanging fruit. Symptoms include brown discoloration of the rind and a foul odor.

Eighteen hours of wetness are required for spore production and release, and infection takes three hours, according to UCR research.

Professional growers, however, spray their trees to make sure that doesn’t happen. MacArthur has his trees sprayed with a copper application to preserve the fruit for market.

“If this copper application is not applied to the fruit on the trees, the stem and/or peel of the orange will break down, leading to the fruit either spoiling on the tree or dropping on the ground.”


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