Citrus growers in California’s Central Valley are counting the cost of an unusual late-season freeze.
According to California Citrus Mutual (CCM), the weather event swept through the region on Monday night and Tuesday morning, causing temperatures to dip below 25oF (-3oC) for up to 5 hours in the coldest locations.
Citrus growers in the Central Valley are approximately 45-50 per cent through harvesting this year’s crop. Given the timing of the freeze and the good size and sugar content at this point in the season, growers do not anticipate any damage to the current crop.
However, Spring-like conditions over the past several weeks have caused trees to start blooming two to four weeks earlier than usual. The quality and quantity of the bloom is a direct indication of the size of next year's crop and the quality of the fruit.
“Drastic swings in temperature such as what we are experiencing now may cause the early, fragile blooms to ‘drop’ which could translate to a smaller crop for the 2018-19 season,” CCM explained in a statement.
“The drastic swing in temperature will undoubtedly affect the area's citrus crop, although the full extent of which won't be known until the Spring.”
With the fate of next year's crop of top concern, growers started implementing freeze protection measures early on Monday morning in anticipation for a cold night.
CCM said growers remained optimistic that if there was damage, the trees would have ample time to push out another set of blooms this Spring.