Cold Weather Puts Crops At Risk

By Ashley Schofield

The recent cold weather damage may limit accessibility to citrus

With temperatures falling below 28 degrees, a dangerous
temperature for growing oranges, many trees have been ruined by the
near freezing points. California is the U.S.’s number one producer
of fresh citrus, accounting for about three-fourths or $1.3 billion
of the country’s supply.

Last Tuesday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appealed to the federal
government for disaster aid from the U.S. Department of Agriculture
and Small Business Administration.

Cal Poly seems to have no great threat imposed on its plant
life. Only minor damage has been reported.

“I spent several sleepless nights trying to protect our orchards
over the years,” said Greg Partida, Cal Poly expert in Pomonology
and subtropical fruit trees. “It was nice not having to worry about
it this time. For the most part our classes and students were not
affected by the freeze.”

Although icicles can be seen dangling from the crops outside the
farm store, they are in no real danger. Water actually prevents
freezer burn through moisture levels.

“At this point, we have no damage or hardship to speak of,” said
Paul Nurre, an agronomy student and leader of Pomona Organics. “As
for the College of [Agriculture] in general, the farm crew has been
applying irrigation water to every orchard throughout the past
several nights as a method of increasing temperatures. This is due
to the fact that the water held in the fruit crystallizes and
punctures the inner tissues of the fruit (namely citrus).”

The high sugar levels in the citrus plants make them extremely
susceptible to freezing; however, it will take about 10 days once
the weather warms up to assess the damage.

“I was all over campus today and didn’t see much damage,” said
Partida. “I cut fruit in different areas of the citrus orchards and
for the most part the fruit wasn’t damaged.”

While nature did its part, landscape architects also played a
part in the protection.

“Much of the citrus appears to be okay, which is probably due to
the fact that the Lyle Center was designed by landscape architects
who knew how to place plants in optimal locations for their growing
needs,” said Zora Tucker, the co-president of the Green Team on

In 1990, there was $800 million wreckage done to California
oranges, which took two years to recover from.

As of 2007, the citrus crop is larger and far more valuable,
making the unforeseen damage a lot worse than in the past.

Cal Poly seems to be withstanding the citrus epidemic for the
time being, and prolonged damage does not seem to be a fear.

Other plants such as avocados and strawberries are also

“You will see different fruit trees exhibiting varying degrees
of freeze damage,” said Partida. “The flowers and green fruit for
the most part were damaged. The pickers are taking off the damaged
fruit and harvest anything that survived the freezes.”

There is really no concern right now for sales and no imposing
restrictions on produce have occurred.

“The trees do seem to be doing all right; campus produce is just
waiting to hear the things they can get,” said Kelly Hertzig, a
Farm Store manager. “Some things are limited right now, and may
have to be imported.”

Waiting until the freeze blows over is the only determinant to
see the amount that has been wrecked.

“Observation over the next week or so will help determine the
extent of the losses, if any,” said Jason Selwitz, a graduate
regenerative studies student. “In many cases, fruit for this year
may be damaged or flavor sacrificed, but the trees themselves will
still be able to produce next year. In other cases, the whole tree
may be harmed.”

Dan Hostetler, the agriculture department chair, thinks the
on-campus crop should be fine.

“Most of the vegetable crops in the ground right now, can take
these types of freezes as long as you let them thaw before you pick
them,” said Hostetler.

Ashley Schofield can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at (909) 869-3747.

Cold Weather Puts Crops At Risk

Cold Weather Puts Crops At Risk

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