Florida and California citrus avoid 'polar vortex'

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Florida and California citrus avoid 'polar vortex'

Florida and California citrus growers averted the icy "polar vortex", as it has been described by media, that struck much of the United States this week.snow

Rusty Wiygul, director of grower affairs for Florida Citrus Mutual, said winds and cloud cover saved the southern state's growers from frost damages.

"Temperatures were not as low as anticipated in most areas. We were warmer almost everywhere because the winds picked up and we had a good cloud cover move over us. We were anywhere from 3-to-5 degrees warmer in most locations. No one reported any damage at all as far as what we heard," Wiygul told www.freshfruitportal.com.

"There may have been some isolated areas. We didn’t have any frosts or anything like that. Everybody felt very confident about last night. We ran water but we didn’t create any ice at any of the groves. We really came through well."

California's growing region in the central valley also experienced higher temperatures, said Bob Blakely, director of industry relations at California Citrus Mutual.

"We had some damaging freezes in early December but since that time, we’ve settled into much more moderate temperatures and there have been no additional damaging frosts or freezes here since probably Dec. 12," Blakely told www.freshfruitportal.com.

"There are long-term forecasts looking at the next two to three weeks which call for the weather to be fairly stable without much change."

A stable, snow-free forecast has not entirely been a blessing for California, however. On the tail of a concerningly dry year, Blakely said the state is desperate for precipitation.

"The 2013 calendar year was the driest year since they began keeping records here in the central valley. There has been no snowfall in the mountains, which is the primary source of our summer irrigation water.

"We rely on the snow melt from the Sierras to fill our reservoirs and to supply a large percentage of our irrigation water and we’ve had almost none," Blakely said.

"We have growers in the area who rely on surface water and federal water allocations. As of right now, they’ve been told that their allocations may be cut to zero for 2014 if we don’t get some snow in the mountains and rain on the valley floor."

For row crops, the lack of water could mean that large sections of cropland go unplanted. For a permanent crop like citrus, well water will become a precious resource.

"For citrus, most of the citrus belt has access to well water, but it is going to mean heavy pumping, over drafting of the ground water and worst case, some wells going dry or having to be drilled deeper," Blakely said.

Although no rain is in the forecast, growers in California will have their fingers crossed for a late-winter miracle.

"Some years we do have late-winter storms. We’ll have what are called 'Miracle Marches' where we’ll get almost the entire annual requirement in a series of storms late in winter. We don’t have anything like that in the forecast for now but we have to continue to be hopeful," Blakely said.

Photo: www.shutterstock.com



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