Written by The Business Journal Staff
Temperatures throughout most of the Central Valley citrus belt did not meet the lows predicted for Thursday night and Friday morning, meaning good news for crops.
In the coldest of areas, temperatures dropped to 26 degrees, although for a much shorter duration than originally anticipated. Generally, the temperatures hovered between 29 and 31 range in this stretch of time.
In anticipation of the cooler temperatures, growers have reported running water in the groves to moisten the ground turning on wind machines to keep grove temperatures elevated by as much as 3 degrees to ward off any potential freeze damage by trapping and circulating warm air as in the grove as it rises from the moist earth. An increase of even two degrees can prevent crop loss when temperatures fall below critical levels, according to a news release from the California Citrus Mutual.
For the navel orange crop, growers ran wind machines for an average of six to eight hours overnight. For the less cold-tolerant Mandarin varieties, growers reported using wind machines for an average of ten hours. The duration of cold temperatures is a key factor in whether a freeze event is positive or negative.
The average cost to run a wind machine is $22 per hour and one machine can cover up to 10 acres. Season to-date, growers have collectively spent an estimated $23 million to protect the Valley’s citrus crop, which is valued at $2.6 billion and makes up nearly 80 percent of California’s total citrus production.
The citrus crop is currently 25-30 percent harvested and the season is anticipated to go through mid-June.