California Citrus Mutual Reports Possible Freeze Damage
December 6, 2013
Citrus Freeze Damage Expected,
A second night of cold temperatures is expected to leave behind some damage to the Valley’s citrus crop. Although the extent of damage cannot be known for certain at this time, the industry along with county and state regulators will begin assessments as early as next week.
In the majority of the Valley’s citrus producing areas temperatures dropped to critical levels as early as 5:00 p.m. last night for mandarins and 8:00 p.m. for navels and lemons. However, a strong inversion layer and breezy conditions helped keep temperatures manageable with frost protection measures. On average, temperatures steadied around 27 degrees. The navel crop will likely see some damage, but the high sugar content of the fruit at this point of the season should provide extra internal fruit protection and keep damage levels minimal.
The Valley’s lemon crop, too, should see very minimal damage. Lemon producing areas along the coast have not been affected by cold weather so far this season.
The mandarin crop is another story. The less cold tolerant variety will see more damage, but again the extent of which cannot be determined at this time. Some isolated areas experienced temperatures in the low 20s in which cases a greater degree of damage is expected. The most damage will surface in border rows, where the fruit has a greater exposure to cold temperatures and is less protected by frost protection measures.
Overall, field reports are bullish that the crop will escape this cold spell without critical damage. The industry does not anticipate that the level of damage will have any dramatic impacts to supply or price. The primary concern at this point is to ensure that only high quality fruit makes its way to the consumer.
At this point of the season, 80% of the mandarin crop and 75% of the navel crop remain to be harvested. California Citrus Mutual estimates the total cost of frost protection across the industry at $12.4 million over the course of two nights.
This cold weather front is expected to stay in the valley through the weekend. A forecast of rain may also pose a challenge if temperatures stay below freezing. The compound effect of multiple nights below subfreezing temperatures will certainly weaken the fruit, but the industry will continue running water and wind machines to minimize damage to the extent possible.