“I’m hearing more and more now is going straight to juice (plants) from the field,” said Gavin Iacono, Tulare County deputy agricultural commissioner. “The vesicles ruptured, so you’ve got free juice inside the fruit and now the warmer weather is starting to dry it out. It’s becoming easier to see damage.”
Temperatures reached the low 20s in some parts of the San Joaquin Valley during the weeklong cold snap. Frost protection measures were widely implemented. No more freezes were forecast as of Dec. 18, but the extent of warming — with daytime temperatures in the 60s and low 40s to 50 at night – was troubling in its own right.
“It does make it easier to separate damaged fruit from good fruit, but doesn’t give any marginal fruit a chance to recover,” Blakely said. “We don’t like to see it warm up real fast after a freeze. That accelerates and sometimes exacerbates the damage. But if it stays cold, minor damage will heal and the fruit will be marketable.”
Shippers agreed to hold fruit harvested after Dec. 11 for 48 hours to give inspectors time to check for damages.
The extent of losses, Blakely said, will depend on where growers are in the valley.
“It ranges from almost no damage to total loss,” he said. “To try to put an average on that is pretty difficult. Eventually we’ll have a number.”