Cold temps and wet weather could affect early blooms

VISALIA, Calif. (KFSN) -- Among the many fruit varieties Family Tree Farms grows in the Central San Joaquin Valley, a nectarine orchard near Goshen is their most developed bloom right now.

Family Tree Farms Pest Control Advisers Armando Guzman and Richard Kajihara showed Action News that most of the fruit here are still encased in buds, but some are further along--more exposed and vulnerable to cold weather.

The National Weather Service says blossoming trees could be damaged by temperatures below freezing this week.

"This one, this bud, the fruit inside is protected like a blanket, so temperatures down to say 29 degrees will not affect the fruit in this bud," Kajihara said. "Whereas this one here the flower is already open, the petals are not acting as a blanket any longer and temperatures down to 29 degrees or less for a duration of an hour or two will actually freeze that fruit on the inside."

And even though fruit inside a bud is protected, Kajihara says it can also still be damaged if temperatures dip into the mid 20's.

So for frost protection, they'll run water to make the orchards warmer.

"The plums and the nectarines are the most susceptible to the lower temperatures," Kajihara said. "Now the apricots and the peaches, they have some fuzz or pubescence as they call it that helps them a little bit more so than the nectarines and the plums."

Besides frost damage, growers face another threat that exists during the winter season-diseases that can cause rot.

But Ryan Hesse, another pest control adviser, says growers can take preventative measures.

"So if you have blossoms that are about to open or are already open, they are susceptible to different types of pathogens and diseases, most namely funguses," Hesse said. "So we would be spraying fungicides on orchards right now to stop them from getting infected."

For most people-the beginning of blossom season means a beautiful view, but for Central Valley growers, it's a tricky time, where their fruit hangs in the balance.
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