Wawona Packing Company

How are California’s citrus and tree fruit crops affected by El Nino?

The 2015-16 El Niño could be one of the strongest 
on record; Wawona Packing Company is, as a 
result, taking measures to maximize citrus harvest 
time prior to rainy days to ensure supply for its 
customers is not interrupted.

The citrus crop cannot be harvested when the fruit is wet.

“It’s not good for the rind,” said Richard Mittry, Wawona’s Ranch Manager who has been farming for 58 years and has experienced plenty of El Niño seasons. “If you harvest when it’s wet, the fruit is just weaker and you will see a lot of rind breakdown.”

To combat this, Wawona builds up its labor force and harvests fruit ready for picking prior to storm arrivals.

El Niño season also plays a pivotal role with tree fruit crops as those weather conditions generally result in increased chill accumulation, an essential component for the fruit to set properly. Since November 1st, Wawona’s tree fruit crops have received nearly 1,100 chill hours, the most in that timeframe since 2011.

“With the way the weather has been, with the amount of water we have been getting, this should be a good year for the [tree] fruit. We should have a lot of it,” Mittry said.

“As of now, everything is setting up perfectly,” said Brent Smittcamp, Wawona’s owner and president.

The cumulative chill hours should provide normal tree fruit sets and outstanding quality across the board. The central San Joaquin Valley has experienced above normal rainfall and the current snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains is 145 percent of normal.

“All these factors will provide deep water moisture, which will help size this season’s tree fruit,” Smittcamp said.

The much-needed precipitation El Niño has supplied this year also helps replenish surface water, canal water, the aquifer and could alleviate water pumping that has been commonplace for California’s central San Joaquin Valley farmers the past four years.

Source: Wawona Packing/digitaljournal.com

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