The Valley's crops are getting sunburned in this extreme heat

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Saturday, September 3, 2022
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Fresno County farmers say fruit- and vegetable-ripening gets disrupted because extreme temperatures make trees and vines go into survival mode.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Workers have been busy cutting vines and laying raisin grapes down on trays in many areas of the Central Valley.

Growers prefer regular summer heat at this time because when the raisin-making process moves too quickly, it becomes much harder for crews to keep up.

"When the heat is extreme, the whole process is accelerated," says Biola raisin grower Stan Morita. "We're hoping the temperatures come down a little bit. I mean, I know that's odd for a raisin grower to ask for lower temperatures but that's so we can work with the fruit."

Farm labor schedules have been reduced because of the extreme heat.

As a result, some trays might not get 'turned' in time so some of the raisins could get burned.

Several crops on the Fresno State farm are already showing signs of heat stress.

"One of my cornfields is getting harvested tomorrow for silage corn. We had to shut the water off so the machines could drive through and you could see it literally burning up because it drank all the water," says Fresno State Farm Manager Rob Willmott.

The Valley sun helps fruit build up sugar levels, but with this stretch of excessive heat, farmers say it is just too much of a good thing - and that's bad.

Sunburn is a very real problem for locally grown produce.

"We are concerned about some of those that are still out there on those tree vines as well as field crops because when you start getting to these 111, 112, 113s, you're talking about potential, significant burning on those crops," says Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen.

Jacobsen also worries because nighttime temperatures are staying in the high 70s and 80s, which doesn't allow vines, trees, plants and even livestock to fully recover from extremely hot days.

Some farmers say they've been irrigating a little more to help crops deal with the added heat.