California: Heavy rainfall brings flooding to San Joaquin

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California: Heavy rainfall brings flooding to San Joaquin

A tropical Pacific storm brought heavy rainfall to some areas of California's San Joaquin Valley last week, creating both positives and negatives for the citrus industry. 

The counties of Fresno, Madera, Merced and Mariposa were among the most heavily affected, with many areas experiencing flooding, according to local media Fresnobee. 

The National Weather Service reportedly kept a flood watch in place through Friday afternoon.

Los Banos-area farmer Joe Del Bosque tweeted several videos showing floodwaters spilling out of orchards and crossing roadways. The weather service later warned that radar was tracking heavy downpours extending from Chowchilla to near Mendota.

In a statement sent to Fresh Fruit Portal, California Citrus Mutual (CCM) president Joel Nelsen explained the main issue for growers was the delays to their harvests.

"We have had an exceptionally wet winter with significant rainfall in January and more expected late this week. It has interrupted our harvest significantly but temperatures have been cool enough not to create exterior quality issues," he said.

"We are stepping up our inspection program for Phytophthora because that could be a problem for fruit close to the ground."

He said that so far "no excessive problems" had been identified with the destructive parasitic fungi that can cause brown rot in plants.

"The real problem is satisfying domestic and export demand," he said.

"We just can't pick the fruit when it is wet and if groves are excessively wet and muddy heavy equipment cannot enter the rows to drop or pick up bins. It can take a day or two after a significant storm to get back in the groves."

But the rainfall has of course brought further optimism to the state's growers who have been battling severe drought conditions for so many years.

"On the positive side we are replenishing storage for surface and ground water which is very critical, so nobody is complaining," Nelsen said.

A representative of grape company Pandol Bros said that in the space of a few months, California had gone from not having enough water in dams and reservoirs for multi-year water storage to not having enough dams and reservoirs to control floods.

The company's special projects director John Pandol also explained that permanent crops like grapes would now be irrigated with surface water as opposed to ground water.

Meanwhile, David Anthony of California-based pomegranate company Ruby Fresh said the majority of the entity's growers were located on the side of the San Joaquin Valley with more sandy soil that had quick drainage.

"This means that even after heavy rains when there might be standing water, it will drain off rapidly. Most growers know that pomegranate trees do not do well if their roots are standing in water," he said in a statement.

Pomegranates like well-drained or sandy soil, if they are sitting a long time in standing water it will affect the tree by rotting the roots. We may have only a small percentage of trees that will be affected where the soil is more clay-like and less sandy.

"Our experience is that soil located on the east side of the San Joaquin Valley would be more clay like in consistency. But the trees planted on the Westside of the valley, the soil is predominantly more sandy in consistency." 

A recent California snowpack survey showed runoff from the overall Sierra Nevada snowpack stood at the highest level since 1995 for this point in the year.

State officials reportedly said Governor Jerry Brown would wait until closer to the end of California’s rain and snow season this spring to decide whether to lift an emergency declaration addressing the drought.


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