Low lying almond groves suffered damage from cold weather in late February, but tree fruit orchards appear to be spared. ( File photo )

Cold delivered a blow to California almonds in late February, but tree fruit in the San Joaquin Valley was evidently spared from significant losses.

Some areas of the state got well below freezing the night of Feb. 22 and previous nights, said Roger Duncan, farm advisor with the University of California cooperative extension network in Stanislaus, Calif.

Because cold flows down to lower elevations, low-lying almond orchards may see the most damage from the cold, Duncan said. Damage will be spotty, with some almond orchards wiped out and others spared. Statewide damage to almonds isn’t expected to be widespread, he said.

“The good thing is that the (almond) trees are in full bloom right now, and are still somewhat tolerant of freezing temperatures down to about 30 degrees,” he said. “Cold below 29 degrees even for 30 minutes or an hour, then we would expect to see some damage and that’s what we see in spots.”

Fruit crops have not started blooming yet and should be spared, he said. There is no freezing weather in the forecast for the next 10 days, he said.

“For the most part, other fruit trees have not started blooming yet, so they are still fairly tolerant of those kinds of temperatures,” he said. “If this happened a week or two from now, we would expect much more damage.” Tree fruit varieties that bloom early may see some damage, but that would be a very small portion of the industry, he said.

Duncan said he did not expect any damage at all for cherries.


Wait and see

Kyle Persky. sales manager for Lodi, Calif.-based Rivermaid Trading Co., said cherry growers in the San Joaquin Valley have some concern that some percentage of buds are damaged but it is too early to say what, if any, damage occurred. “We need to have more bloom show up (before we can assess damage).”

The nights of Feb. 19 and Feb. 20 were the coldest for Fresno-area growers, said Ian LeMay, director of member relations and communications for the California Fresh Fruit Association.

“We can’t really tell whether there has been any damage this early on in the crop,” LeMay said Feb. 23. Fruit may see damage from sub-26 degree temperatures in some regions but it is too early to say. Wind machines, running water and other precautions were taken to protect the crop. He said most of the crop was not in bloom though earlier warmer weather did result in some early bloom for some varieties. He said tree fruit harvest in the San Joaquin Valley will begin the latter portion of April and the beginning of May, perhaps a couple days ahead of normal.