Expected freezing temperatures have Valley farmers on high alert

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Wednesday, December 14, 2022
Valley farmers closely monitoring expected freezing temperatures
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Farmers are preparing to protect their crops from temperatures that could cause damage.

PORTERVILLE, Calif. (KFSN) -- Lines at the Porterville Citrus packing houses are nonstop this time of year with mandarin oranges.

Before the citrus makes it to this point, growers are working around the clock to ensure cold temperatures after the recent rain don't cause irreversible damage.

"The truth is nobody sees them up at midnight in sub-freezing temps guarding every piece of fruit," explained Pro Citrus Network VP, Jared Gomes.

Casey Creamer is the CEO of Citrus Mutual, which provides critical resources for crops across the Central Valley and California.

"We've got close to 30 weather stations throughout the citrus belt, and we have a weather forecaster on staff during this time period," Creamer said. "It's a daily forecast that goes out twice a day with real-time info that is very valuable to the industry and citrus growers across the state."

He says temperatures below 28 degrees for extended periods are when concern rises.

"While we are projecting temps a little colder tonight at 29 degrees, similar to last night, growers will be on watch for temps that can go even lower especially in different parts of the Valley," said Creamer.

Cool temperatures help ripen the fruit, but there's a fine line before growers start to worry about crystals forming inside the produce.

Gomes says this week has many on heightened alert.

"As much as the citrus industry loves cold weather, it's been about ten years since we had a real good freeze, and we are expecting low numbers, and I'm sure growers are getting their wind machines ready," Gomes said.

Creamer says those machines can make a major difference.

"And with wind machines being able to raise temps a little, we have survived it, so it gets down to that 23 to 26 mark for long periods of time and multiple days," Creamer explained.

The goal is for all citrus to be shipped out at the highest quality possible.