(California Citrus Mutual)

A second night of cold temperatures on Dec. 5 is expected to cause some damage to California’s San Joaquin Valley (SJV) citrus crop.

Although the extent of damage is unknown, the industry along with county and state regulators will begin assessments as early as next week.

In the majority of the SJV’s citrus producing areas, temperatures dropped to critical levels as early as 5 p.m. on Dec. 5 for mandarins and 8 p.m. for Navels and lemons. 

However, a strong inversion layer and breezy conditions helped manage temperatures with frost protection measures.

On average, temperatures steadied around 27 degrees. 

The Navel crop will likely see some damage, but the high sugar content of the fruit at this point of the season should provide extra internal fruit protection and keep damage levels minimal.  

The SJV lemon crop should have very minimal damage. Lemon-producing areas along the coast have not been affected by cold weather so far this season.  

The mandarin crop is another story. The less cold tolerant variety will see more damage, but again the extent of which cannot be immediately determined. Some isolated areas experienced temperatures in the low 20s in which cases a greater degree of damage is expected. 

The most damage will surface in border rows where fruit has a greater exposure to cold temperatures and is less protected by frost protection.

Overall, field reports are bullish that the crop will escape this cold spell without critical damage.

The industry does not anticipate the level of damage will have any dramatic impacts to supply or price. The primary concern at this point is to ensure that only high quality fruit makes its way to the consumer. 

At this point of the season, 80 percent of the mandarin crop and 75 percent of the Navel crop is on the tree.

California Citrus Mutual estimates total frost protection costs across the industry at $12.4 million over two nights. 

This cold weather front is expected to stay in the valley through the weekend. A forecast of rain may also pose a challenge if temperatures stay below freezing. 

The compound effect of multiple nights below subfreezing temperatures will certainly weaken the fruit.

The industry will continue running water and wind machines to minimize damage to the extent possible. 

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