Ag Today February 20, 2018

Freezing temperatures had farmers on edge as many try to protect crops

BY ROBERT RODRIGUEZ -February 20, 2018 12:09 PM

Updated February 20, 2018 03:00 PM

An early-morning freeze put area farmers on full alert Tuesday, but the damage – if any – may not show up for days or even weeks.

Citrus growers, whose crops are among the most susceptible to subfreezing temperatures, saw the thermostat drop to the low 20s for up to five hours in the coldest areas of the central San Joaquin Valley. Many deployed frost-protection measures including wind machines and irrigation water to try to prevent any damage.

Citrus industry officials say the frost protections, combined with mature fruit on the trees, may have saved this year’s citrus crop. About half of the navel and mandarin crop remains on the tree.

“Given the timing of this freeze event and the good size and sugar content of the crop at this point in the season, growers do not anticipate any damage,” said Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual, a group based in Exeter that lobbies for growers.

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