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No hard freeze for California citrus growers

Citrus growers in the Central Valley of California did not see the damagingly low temperatures that were originally forecast just before Christmas. The National Weather Service had warned that temperatures might dip into the low 20s in the southern parts of the San Joaquin Valley, which would have been damaging to citrus production there. However, the eventual temperatures did not get lower than 26. Additionally, the cold weather did not stick around for long, further lessening the concerns of growers.

"There was no effect on our crops," said Jerry Peterson, of Cal Valley Citrus, an orange grower in Lindsay. "In our area, temperatures were not much lower than 29 degrees, and the duration of the cold was short, which resulted in no impact on our production. If anything, it was most likely beneficial because such 'milder' cold helps to strengthen the rind on some of the thinner skinned fruit."

Wind machines deployed to stave off frost
In localized areas that are generally more susceptible to frosts, growers said the use of wind machines along with irrigation helped to ward off any potentially dangerous frosts. Wind machines are used by many citrus growers and they have proven to be quite effective.

Schellenberg Farms are an organic mandarin grower in Reedley. Some of their crops are located in areas that tend to see cooler temperatures than many other citrus growers experience. "We ran the wind machines for a couple of nights when it dipped to 27 on some of our cooler ranches," said Dieter Schellenberg. "Irrigation was also used which, when used in conjunction with the wind machines, can raise temperatures by 2 or 3 degrees, and lifts the inversion layer. This resulted in protecting all but the outer-most edges of the fields."

Still assessing for any damage
While growers are breathing a collective sigh of relief, the full assessment is still underway. According to Schellenberg, the fruit can sometimes take up to 2 weeks to show signs of damage, so producers are continuing to inspect their crops, remaining vigilant for any potential issues that may arise. However, so far, they remain confident that it's business as usual and production will continue on unabated.

"We haven't seen much damage showing yet," he said. "There was some slight leaf burn on some of the trees but overall the cold was not as bad as we initially expected it to be. We are still on the lookout as damage usually doesn't show up until a week or two after the event. Our assessments will continue over the next week. Our expectations are that this recent cold weather has not impacted our fruit and that the season will continue to be a successful one."

Milder conditions have since returned to the Central Valley region, where overnight temperatures are back in the 40s.

For more information: 
Jerry Peterson
Cal Valley Citrus
Tel: +1 (559) 562-1391

Dieter Schellenberg 
Schellenberg Farms
Tel: +1 (559) 638-7292

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