Valley Citrus Growers Prepare for Freezing Temperatures

December 17, 2008 4:26:20 AM PST
A cold snap has citrus growers worried about their crops. About half of the Valley's Orange crop is still on the trees. Growers are uncertain as to how cold it's going to get. But they are doing what they can to protect their crop.Manuel Cunha grows oranges near Sanger. He says:"This is the time of year. This is when we all start to panic."

Cunha is among those watering their trees. The water is a couple of degrees warmer than the air, and it can make the difference between a good crop and failure.

Fresno County's Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture, Thomas Nyberg says:"The big temperature is below 27 that's when damage can begin. But below 25 and it probably will begin happening."

Overnight some growers are expected to start their wind machines, to keep the slightly warmer air circulating. Nyberg says the hope is the cold spell doesn't last too long. "So, if you're down at let's see 25 degrees for an hour you can expect five per cent damage. The longer that period of time takes, the more damage that will happen."

The last freeze hit in January of 2007. It lasted five days and caused more than one hundred million dollars to citrus crops in Fresno County, and more than 400 million in damage to citrus groves in Tulare County. The financial impact rattled the entire Central Valley and put thousands out of work, and dependent on food donations for help.

Manuel Cunha says: "If we have another bad freeze that will be devastating to the labor force that's here. It will be devastating to our rural communities like Orange Cove, Orosi, Sultana, all these place around the Valley that have these type of crops especially the citrus."

Nobody's sure how much damage, if any, this current cold snap will cause, but water will be flowing, wind turbines will be turning, and some growers, will be praying." The only thing we hope that God isn't mad at us." Says Cunha.

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