Fresno citrus farmers take steps to protect crops amid freezing temps

Sunday, December 27, 2015
Freezing temperatures have citrus farmers taking steps to protect their crops
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The hard freeze has valley citrus growers concerned about their fruit, once again.

FRESNO, Calif. -- The hard freeze has Fresno citrus growers concerned about their fruit, once again. Many stayed up all night taking steps to protect those valuable crops.

When it gets this cold Manuel Cunha doesn't just turn the water on to protect his citrus from the freeze. He checks his sprinklers closely for any malfunctions, caused by coyotes or even a little bit of dirt.

"You gotta be on top of it because if you only have so much water and you have to move the water from block to block, you gotta make sure that when you move it you shut one block down, watching it that it doesn't freeze, so you can go back to it with the water again."

Cunha expects overnight lows in the 20s at his 55-acre Fresno County citrus ranch and that concerns him. But he said a grower only has two options to protect the citrus by raising the temperature-- water and wind.

While Cunha will be up all night surveying his sprinklers, valley homeowners are protecting their pipes by buying basic products, such as foam tubing.

"You've got water under pressure, and then the water freezes and expands and cracks the pipe and now you've got water shooting out," explains Kevin Seubert of Fresno AG Hardware.

When it gets this cold the last thing you want is a home flooded with cold water.

The cold is the concern right now, but even in the spring hail can threaten citrus. Cunha said farmers raising vegetables like broccoli and cabbage also are in for a hard night and should cover their crops with plastic.