California Oranges Bounce Back Growers 'Peel Back' the Complexities of Citrus Farming



    VISALIA, Calif., Jan. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- Thanks to good planning and a
 little help from Mother Nature, California orange growers are back in full
 swing with the promise of an estimated 86,000,000 cartons of oranges
 one-year after weathering the record-breaking freeze of January 2007 -- the
 worst in most recent years -- that wiped out 40 percent of the navel orange
 crop. With agriculture being a major industry in California and citrus
 accounting for a healthy amount of the total revenues, the $800 million
 citrus loss was a huge hit for growers, packing houses, suppliers and
 ultimately consumers around the world. Beholden to Mother Nature's
 unpredictability and grateful for her tenacity, growers look back on the
 key learnings that preserved 37 million boxes of fruit from a crop that
 early reports said was nearly a complete loss.
 
     California's orange groves benefit from unique growing conditions and
 nutrient-abundant soil that yield the premium citrus in the world.
 Unfortunately in 2007, prolonged drops in temperature turn the citrus
 belt's natural insulation from weather fluctuation into a devastating ice
 box effect. The majority of growers, now mostly third and fourth generation
 farmers, have years of experience under their belt and have come to
 understand the cyclical nature of freezes, but the severity of the 2007
 freeze was unprecedented and resulted in serious crop damage. Some of the
 affected fruit was used for orange juice production allowing growers to
 recover a small portion of their production costs. For five days beginning
 Jan. 12, 2007 temperatures dropped into the low 20s in California from the
 Mexican border to the Sacramento Valley.
 
     "Operating a business at the mercy of Mother Nature is risky," said Rob
 Davis, a third-generation citrus farmer who manages 300 acres of groves in
 Ojai, California. "Most citrus trees only produce fruit once a year so it's
 critical to always be vigilant and always be prepared."
 
     In fact, looking back on history, the California groves have been hit
 by harsh weather about every eight to ten years with recent significant
 losses in 1990 and 1998. With each new generation, more experience is
 gained, better business practices (including buying crop insurance) are
 added and more sophisticated farming methods employed to help growers
 identify ways to protect their product and their families.
 
     For example, growers now know the precise freeze point for navel
 oranges. At 26.5 degrees ice crystals begin to form and the oranges begin
 to freeze. Third generation citrus grower and owner of LoBue Brothers, Joe
 LoBue emphasized, "It really only takes a couple of degrees difference to
 lose everything. In January 2007, growers knew to immediately bring in
 mechanical wind machines to protect the trees as the cold set in. Some even
 set small bonfires between the trees and ran turbine fans to keep the
 fire-warmed air circulating around the groves."
 
     One year later, the California citrus growers are moving forward with a
 renewed passion and energy as they have done for generations. Their
 commitment is evident in the delicious California navel oranges this
 season. Trucks loaded with crates of juicy California navel oranges are
 once again rolling up to grocery stores across the country, a tribute to
 Mother Nature's goodness and the hard work of California orange growers.
 Primed to perfection by this season's warm, California sunshine, rich soil
 and ideal growing conditions, this season's crop is plentiful and
 especially sweet.
 
     Second-generation citrus farmer Mike George of Suntreat in Lindsay,
 California adds, "As a grower, you never know what card Mother Nature is
 going to deal, so you learn to live under the aegis of weather you can't
 control and prepare yourself for seasons of abundance and seasons when you
 have to tighten your belt. Looks like Mother Nature is shining on us for
 2008."
 
     For more information on the California Citrus Growers Association,
 visit http://www.calcitrusgrowers.com.
 
 
Media Contact: Lisa Ruiz-Rogers Manning Selvage & Lee 323-866-6000 lisa.rogers@mslpr.com

SOURCE California Citrus Growers Association

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