Citrus growers endure another cold night, prepare for more

12/06/2013 12:03:00 PM
Andy Nelson

California citrus growers endured another night of low temperatures Dec.5-6, and more cold is on the way.

Temperatures in groves marketed by Pasadena, Calif.-based Sun Pacific, which packs mandarins under the Cuties label, bottomed out at about 23 degrees the night of Dec. 5-6, said Barney Evans, the company’s owner and vice president of sales.

“Last night was a little colder than the night before,” Evans said the morning of Dec. 6.

Temperatures varied, however, from location to location.

“There are so many micro-climates in the valley,” he said. “We’re confident that we still have a lot of good fruit available.”

Sun Pacific was, however, taking a wait-and-see attitude until accurate damage assessments can be made.

Doug Carman, vice president of farming for Los Angeles-based Paramount Citrus, which markets mandarins under the Wonderful Halos label, said most orchards marketed by the company bottomed out in the upper-20s, with a few in the mid-20s.

“We can tolerate the upper 20s,” Carman said.

In addition to temperatures not reaching dangerously low levels, Paramount’s water and wind treatments worked very well the night of Dec. 5-6, as they did the night before, Carman said.

“We don’t anticipate much damage,” he said.

Frost prevention measures also worked well for Sun Pacific, Evans said.

Through Dec. 6, mandarins had been hit harder by the cold than navels and lemons, said Joel Nelsen, president of Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual.

Navels, Nelsen said, can tolerate sub-30 temperatures better than mandarins.

“The guys with navels are in pretty good shape,” he said. “We anticipate a small percentage of the mandarin crop to be damaged.”

The industry is far from done with the cold weather. The night of Dec. 6-7 was expected to be warmer, but another cold snap was expected over the weekend, one that could linger into the week of Dec. 9.

“Thank God we get a reprieve tonight, but our real concern is Sunday, Monday and Tuesday,” Evans said.

Fruit that may have survived a night or two of cold in good shape is nonetheless more vulnerable to future damage, Nelsen said. And with the majority of the California crop still on trees, growers have a lot of work ahead of them.

“About 80% of the oranges and 75% of the mandarins” have yet to be harvested, Nelsen said. “So we’re pretty vulnerable.”



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