California farmers excited and apprehensive about El Niño

Aug 7, 2015

Many farmers and other California residents are hoping that the strong El Niño forming in the Pacific Ocean will bring abundant rain to the drought-stricken Golden State this winter. However, the possibility of too much rain in a short period of time is also a concern, reported Phillip Joens in Pacific Coast Business Times.

In 1997, the last time meteorologists recorded a strong El Niño, strong rains from April through August caused $1.1 billion in damage to California's economy because of severe flooding and landslides, the article said. In February of 1998, weeks of rain caused an additional $550 million in damages to the state's economy.

For the strawberry industry, flooding can be tolerated part of the season, but closer to harvest, flooding is not good, said a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) expert.

Surendra Dara, the strawberry and vegetable crops advisor for UC ANR Cooperative Extension for Central Coast counties, said strawberries are planted early in the winter. Young plants might be able to survive torrential downpours or even flooded fields, but rain later in the season is harmful to mature berries. 

“Not only the rain, but the dampness,” Dara said. “If there's too much moisture for too long, (strawberries) … will rot in water, that kind of thing.”

By Jeannette E. Warnert
Author - Communications Specialist