The recent cold snap that saw temperatures in California's Central Valley drop as low as -4oC for several hours at a time has growers very worried of potential damage to tree fruit, citrus and nuts.
The freezing weather began early last week and ran through the past weekend. A very mild winter punctuated with some heat spikes in February had caused almonds and some tree fruit to come into bloom as the cold spell set in. As the beginning of this week, however, the extent of damage to tree fruit crops was still unknown.
"It's still too early to tell what damage may have occurred," said Marc Calder of Primavera Marketing, a major grower-shipper of California cherries. "We'll know a lot more in another month when we can see fruit on the trees. Frankly, I'm more worried about the weather over the next week or so as it's supposed to be quite wet, which could inhibit bee activity."
Jim Stewart, a veteran of the California tree fruit industry, said there had been some damage to the stonefruit crop over the weekend from the freezing temperatures.
"We're only around 50 per cent in bloom at the moment and some of the colder areas around Hanford no doubt had some damage,” noted Stewart. “Areas around Kettleman City (southwest side of the valley) is early (producing) ground and they may have been hit to some extent. But it's just too early to say where things stand."
Steve Holly of Voita West, a grower and marketer of US citrus, doesn’t expect to see any damage to the navel (orange) crop from the freeze.
"The brix is very high in the oranges, which serves as a natural insulator. As for mandarins, there's always some damage every year - even when temperatures don't get as cold as this."
Holly also said it remained to be seen if the 2018/19 navel crop might be impacted from the freeze, however.
"It will be a couple of months at least before we know anything."
The crop that likely has suffered the most damage is almonds, as groves throughout much of the southern valley were well into their bloom period when the freeze struck.
"There had to be some damage," said Holly. "I saw a lot of petal drop in Kern County when I was driving through the other day."