Freeze warning causes concern for Valley citrus growers

January 1, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
The bellow freezing temperatures can damage citrus crops.

The water pumps have been running all day throughout a 70 acre orange grove in Fresno County after a freeze warning was issued for the Valley.

"We started hydrating our fields already yesterday morning to try to get as much warm water under the ground and heat the ground up too," said Keith Nilmeier, citrus grower.

Nilmeier started harvesting three days ago but the majority of his oranges are still on the trees. And with overnight temperatures expected to drop to freezing levels, growers are doing what they can to fight off the cold. "I'll sleep earlier in the evening, probably from about 6 until about 9 or 10. And then from 10 o clock it will probably be pretty much out from there."

Nilmeier will ring in the New Year on his farm, checking to make sure temperatures don't drop below the 28 degree mark. Under these low temperatures for a long period of time, the crop can sustain frost damage -- which is why many growers will kick in their wind machines to raise the heat inside the groves..

But the cold weather isn't all that bad for the fruit. It also helps to toughen up the fruit itself and it brings sugar and brings the sugar and acid into balance better. It's only when the extreme freezing temperatures roll in that keep the growers wide awake, and on the defense.

"This is going to be an exercise for us, it's one of the nights that we prepare for. And you just have to be out there doing your due diligence. You can't just sit back and do nothing," said Nilmeier.