A cold front that is expected to drop temperatures to freezing levels is keeping central San Joaquin Valley citrus growers on alert.
The National Weather Service has issued a freeze watch for most of the San Joaquin Valley from late Thursday through Saturday. Temperatures are expected to range from 28 to 32 degrees late Thursday into Friday morning, and again Friday night into Saturday morning.
A low of 25 degrees is possible in the coldest rural locations.
Citrus growers in the Valley – the heart of the state’s citrus industry – can deploy several frost-protection tools, including running irrigation water and wind machines.
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Dave Smith, general manager of Booth Ranches in Orange Cove, said growers will use frost-protection methods when temperatures drop below 28 degrees and stay there for long periods. Other citrus fruits, including clementines and lemons, are less frost-tolerant and require protection earlier.
“We will be watching it, but I don’t think it is going to be a major event,” Smith said. “Right now, there is a lot of sugar in the fruit and some cold nights will be good for the fruit.”
Smith said he is more concerned about a cold front that is headed into the Valley early next week.
“The duration is what we are concerned about,” he said.
Citrus, including navel oranges and clementines, is a major crop in the Valley with Tulare County the leading producer in the region. In 2015, oranges were an $819 million crop in Tulare County.