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Freeze Watch Means Sleepless Nights For Citrus Farmers

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(Sacramento, CA)
Thursday, January 10, 2013

With a "freeze watch" in effect for much of the state, citrus farmers won't be getting much sleep this weekend.

"We're at a critical phase here and growers are going to be up all night for the next four nights, I'm positive of that."

Joel Nelsen heads California Citrus Mutual - a grower's cooperative.
He explains that farmers are working overnight, trying to raise temperatures around their navel orange, mandarin and lemon trees by soaking the ground with water and using wind machines.
"If you're not prepared, you can have some significant damage."
Cold temperatures can crystallize the inside of the fruit…causing it to lose moisture.
Fortunately, Nelsen says, fruit on the trees now have had a chance to get used to cold temperatures and the skin has toughened up.  
"…so there is some protection within the fruit itself against some of the cold temperatures so we're reasonably optimistic."
Citrus is California's number five crop - a $2 billion a year industry with the majority of tonnage in the San Joaquin Valley.
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