California citrus shrugs off below-freezing temps

12/05/2011 12:01:00 PM
Don Schrack

Temperatures dipped below freezing in the early morning hours Dec. 3-5, but San Joaquin Valley citrus grower-shippers reported no fruit damage from California’s first cold spell of the 2011-12 season.

“We had three nights of low temperatures, but nothing low enough to cause a problem,“ said Andrew Felts, sales manager for Wileman Bros. & Elliott Inc., Cutler.

Readings fell to 26 degrees for short periods in isolated areas, but “these chilly temperatures are doing nothing but help the navel crop,” said Dave Stone, owner of Valhalla Sales & Marketing Co., Kingsburg.

“I think it was cold enough to thicken the rinds on the navels, and the thicker rinds provide insulation for future cold snaps,” he said.

A mild fall also helped to protect the fruit, said Shirley Batchman, director of government affairs for California Citrus Mutual, Exeter.

“We already have good sugar content, and that sugar acts as great anti-freeze,” she said.

Mandarins, which have thin rinds, are more susceptible to mild freezes, but Sunkist grower-shippers reported no damage to the specialty crop, said Claire Smith, director of corporate communications for Sunkist Growers Inc., Sherman Oaks.

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