Citrus Crops inspected after freeze

State inspectors and Kern County Department of Agriculture biologists inspect samples of citrus fruit after Friday's freezing temperatures.
KERN COUNTY, CA - Freezing overnight temperatures threaten the Valley's fourth largest crop, citrus. State inspectors came down to see if area fruit orchards suffered during the eight hours of 26 degree temperatures last week.

Kern County Department of Agriculture biologists said as of Monday afternoon, the trees are not in danger, but the freeze could threaten to dry out their fruit before harvest.

On Monday, agriculture biologists inspected Arvin-area oranges, mandarins, and lemons, but found only minor freeze damage in a select few.

"You can see on this top side we have a lot of damage right here, but if you flip it over on the backside it's relatively smooth," said one biologist inspecting a lemon with damage too insignificant to report to state inspectors.

Frost damage will burst the juice sacs inside citrus fruit, which will lead to drying. Biologists collected several lemons that appeared to be damaged until it was determined they were year-old fruit still on the trees.

"If it falls below 28 degrees Fahrenheit for more than four hours then it will sustain damage," said Deputy Director of Kern County's Department of Agriculture Manuel Villicana.

Biologists collected several lemons that appeared to be damaged until it was determined they were year-old fruit still on the trees. Fruit with high sugar can survive longer than others.

"If there's extreme frost damage, they just won't pick the fruit. It'll fall to the ground," said Villicana.

However, that means farm workers will be out of work and less produce would be shipped, driving up grocery store prices. The last hard freeze came in 2007 and devastated Kern County citrus growers.

"There is not enough damage to the frost to call it score-able," said agricultural biologist Ken Kenney.

A non-score is a good score for the fruit, but inspectors will be out again Tuesday to collect more samples to see how citrus fruit fared over the weekend freeze.
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