Harvest resumes as valley citrus orchards dry out

FRESNO, Calif.

On Monday Action News returned to a south valley orange orchard left flooded after a creek overflowed.

Fallen moldy oranges illustrated the flood damage sustained in Lindcove orchards in Tulare County.

Charlie Mills of Sequoia Orange said the cold and the recent rains weakened the citrus crop. Mills explained, "It will loosen the stem right around the orange and then later on when the weather warms up it will fall off."

Growers have been using fungicides to control mold and mildew. Mills said, "Brown rot is from all the moisture and the rain that we got. In the ground the spores bounce up from the ground and cause brown rot."

Two weeks ago, floodwaters swept through the Lindcove orchards and even a local tractor business east of Exeter. Merton Creek overflowed and the water even rushed over the street.

The creek has since dried out. Dirt has been packed into place to fix the breach. Empty canals gave you an idea of how much water came through the area.

Bob Blakely of California Citrus Mutual said the harvest has resumed in most orchards. Blakely said, "We're dry enough now even though it's still cloudy the trees have dried off, the fruit has dried off. Pretty much back to our normal picking schedule."

But Blakely has already noticed some citrus damage. "We're starting to see a breakdown in some areas where some of the fruit is breaking down, the rind is getting soft and a condition we call puff increase is setting in."

Mills added fallen fruit can actually be a good thing. He said the trees are culling themselves of damaged oranges. "It's better if they all on the ground if they have little frost on them or ice mark."

The orchards have begun to dry out and water now flows through canals at a much more manageable rate.

Citrus growers said it will take another month and a half before they can get a handle on how much fruit damage was suffered.

Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.