Citrus growers get much-needed rest

FRESNO, Calif.

Growers will finally catch a bit of a break after spending continuous nights protecting their crop.

"It's been a long three weeks out in the field protecting the citrus from the freeze," said Orange and Mandarin grower Greg Thonesen. Thonesen has spent many sleepless nights running water and wind machines to keep temperatures around his grove from dropping below 28 degrees. "We've had really good efficacy from the wind machines, gaining 5 to 7 degrees depending upon the night so I expect we're going to have a harvestable crop," said Thonesen.

Thonesen was able to save his crop from any major frost damage but that protection has come at a high price. "We didn't lose anything, however we were out a lot of nights and we incurred a lot of expense with the propane and the fuel costs and the labor costs," said Thonesen.

"They're going to be concerned about their revenue, they spend a lot of money protecting this crop," said Bob Blakely with the California Citrus Mutual. They estimate a loss of $87 million to the citrus industry due to the frost protection since the beginning of December. But the freeze danger is not yet over.

"We're typically susceptible to cold weather up to February and we have had frost as late as March but from now until probably the middle of February, we're still within our critical time frame," said Blakely.

For now, growers are just relieved they will be able to get some rest before the next freeze hits. "We're looking forward to it breaking down and giving us some relief from the long nights," said Thonesen.

Growers are still assessing the damage cost from the last freeze but they plan to keep protecting their crop that's worth about $2 billion.

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