Freezing temperatures lead to little damage for citrus crops

Citrus holds up during freezing temperatures

BAKERSFIELD - Earlier this week the Kern County Department of Agriculture picked several bags of oranges and lemons. Today technicians with the department cut open the picked fruit, so they could determine what damage the recent low overnight temperatures have had on Kern County citrus crops. 

"See these burst sacks in here?, asked Willie Garcia as he pointed to what is called the juice sacks inside an orange. "They just look indented."

Garcia, a technician with the department of agriculture was examining several varieties of oranges and lemons for freeze damage. 

Burst juice sacks inside the fruit are an example of such damage, which causes it to lose flavor and become more bitter. 

After overnight temperatures reached freezing levels for almost a week straight, some farmers were worried about their crops. 

Today's tests should be good news for farmers.

"Preliminary inspection of the fruit has shown minor or no freeze damage on the fruit, either valencias, navels, mandarins or lemons," said Manuel Villicana with the Kern County Department of Agriculture. 

The citrus tested was pulled from the coldest areas that the department monitors, in order to see just how bad the damage might be. 

The department is now hoping that the worst is behind them. 

"One of the things that is now going to be helpful is the fact that the temperatures are going to be warmer so as far as I know we aren't going to have anything back in the low 20's."

Farmers that took steps to keep their crop's temperature above 32 degrees as freeze warnings were issued are most likely the best off right now.

"From wind machines, to running water on there fruit in the orchards to try and minimize the temperature changes in there," Villicana said. "So far it's working because we are encountering like I said very little detection of damage on the fruit."

The department did find a little damage on a few valencia oranges, but nothing too major. 

"What makes this (a valencia orange) more susceptible is because its more thin skin, you can notice on here the rind, how thin it is, compared to a naval orange," Villicana said.

The department called today's results preliminary, adding that the it will continue to monitor the situation. 

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