Freezing temperatures take toll on Valley's $1.5 billion citrus industry

Mandarins were picked from the Farmersville area to see how they fared in below freezing temperatures.
December 9, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Inspectors in the South Valley took their first look at fruit damaged by last week's freezing temperatures. Improved frost protection technology and advanced weather forecasting are allowing growers to better prepare for freeze events than in prior years. But Monday inspectors found signs of crop damage.

The Tulare County Ag Commissioner's Office spent part of Monday slicing up citrus collected from around the county last Friday. The 72 hour wait makes it easier for inspectors to find any signs of freeze damage on the fruit and Monday they found some.

"We had two blocks one from the south end of the county and one from the north end of the county that were both in low lying unprotected areas that had significant damage--pretty bad," said Gavin Iacono, Tulare Co. Deputy Ag Commissioner.

The navels were picked from the Terra Bella in a cold spot and where the grower was not using water or wind machines. Some groves could saw a near wipe out of their crop.

"You see those little white crystals in there," Iacono said.

Navels in areas where growers used frost-protection measures made out okay so far with only low to moderate damage. The same goes for mandarins that were picked from mid-Tulare County area--though several they opened up Moday had some clear signs of freeze damage

"All those blocks were protected so they had water and wind machines so it wasn't too bad yet. We kind of expect to see more damage as time goes on and we have more time for things to," Iacono said. "We'll do something like this; I want to try to get different sizes too."

Inspectors were back out in the fields taking samples including here in this cold spot of Terra Bella. The Ag commissioner's office says the state is asking them to take samples every few days during the freeze to see how the damage progresses.

"We did want to try to go to a spot that was unprotected to see the extent of damage," said Richard Bramer, Porterville-Terra Bella Supervisor.

One thing that was clear Monday citrus that was protected with wind and water showed less or no damage compared to those that were unprotected.


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