Subtropical Fruit Crops Research & Education
University of California
Subtropical Fruit Crops Research & Education

Posts Tagged: cold

Valley Lemons?

What about Planting Lemons in Kern County?

By Craig Kallsen, UC Cooperative Extension Advisor, Kern County

     Kern County is located at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley of California. Over the past couple of years, I, as the citrus Farm Advisor for the University of California Cooperative Extension in Kern County, have received an increasing number of enquiries about the feasibility of growing lemons here. The answer is “yes” we can grow lemons here and according to the latest Kern County Agricultural Commissioner's Report (2017) we have 4010 acres of bearing and 10 acres of non-bearing lemons in the county.  Those 10 acres of non-bearing lemons indicate that fairly recently someone decided lemons were the way to go.

    These inquiries as to the feasibility of growing lemons are understandable. The price and demand for lemons in the U.S. and worldwide is increasing.  Depending upon where you get your statistics the retail prices of lemons was something like $1.50 per pound from 2011- 2013 to something like $2 a pound from 2015 – 2017.  The statistics show 2018 was even a better year for selling lemons.  Consumption of lemons in the U.S. was less than 1 million metric tons in 2011 to about 1.25 million metric tons in 2017.  Worldwide consumption has increased from about 4.5 million metric tons in 2011 to 5.5 million metric tons in 2017.  If you add in other factors such as a heat wave, which, for example, hit Ventura County production hard in July 2018, or extreme winter freeze events, and sometimes-erratic supplies from other lemon producing areas of the world, prices can skyrocket 40% or more in a month. Being able to sell a carton of lemons for excess of $55 can be very attractive to prospective growers. Not surprisingly, if you compare the cost and returns of growing lemons with those of oranges, a person might wonder why anybody would choose producing navels over lemons (see https://coststudies.ucdavis.edu/ ).

     Planting lemons is riskier. In the San Joaquin Valley, the major consideration is the greater frost sensitivity of lemons as compared most other citrus crops.  Not only do lemons freeze at a higher temperature, so do its branches.  A freeze, which can spoil orange or mandarin production for a year, can devastate lemon production for three years due to increased damage to the lemon canopy and the older branches of that canopy. If your tree freezes back to the major scaffold branches, you are out of business for a while. An important question is how often does it cold enough to destroy my lemon production capacity for three years or more?  Industry wide, for the last 30 years we have had three freezes where lemon leaf canopies, even in the warmer areas of Kern County, were severely damaged –  December 1990- January 1991, December 1998, and January 2007.  Not to be an alarmist but, in looking at these dates, it would appear that we may be overdue for an extreme freeze.  We flirted with one in early December of 2013.  Over the years, I have noticed that as the time interval increases from the previous frost event, citrus orchards move further and further down onto the valley floor, only to retreat to higher ground after the next severe event.

      Well, what about global warming?  Shouldn't Kern County be getting to be a safer place to grow lemons?  In answer, predictions can be difficult, and according to baseball legend Yogi Berra, this is especially so if they are about the future. Winter air temperatures have been climbing over the past 30 years in the southern San Joaquin Valley. With our Mediterranean climate in the SJV, most of our rain falls during the fall and winter.  Drought years, which means drought winters, have become more common. The higher winter temperatures are good news for citrus growers, but the droughts have been bad news in that dry air in not conducive for fog formation.  Fog, historically, is our winter blanket, that holds temperatures above freezing when conditions are ripe for rapid drops in temperature associated with clear, windless nights following cold fronts that move into the valley from Alaska and other points north.  

       The risk in growing lemons can be mitigated. As with any real estate endeavor, the three most important factors governing the value of a prospective lemon property are location, location and location. When we are talking about cold temperatures, we are talking about nighttime low air temperatures. Daytime winter temperatures, once we get into mid-morning, usually, are more than warm enough to keep lemons from freezing.  The major mitigation factor under human control is to plant lemons in the areas of Kern County that have the warmest nighttime temperatures.  These areas tend to be on the lower slopes of the foothills on the eastern and southern areas of the SJV.  Cold air is much heavier than warm air and runs like a river downslope. Good cold drainage is necessary.  If lemons are planted too far out onto the valley floor, they end up at the bottom of a lake of cold air during late fall and winter freeze events. The area where citrus is grown, often, is referred to as a belt along the lower foothills of the SJV.  Not only is this belt characterized by more fog than higher up in the foothills, but also it is close to the atmospheric inversion layer that forms in the SJV during the winter. The SJV is at the bottom of a large deep bowl formed by surrounding mountain ranges, and the depth of this bowl makes the air more difficult to disturb by wind. This still air, on cold, clear nights during the winter, allows heat radiating into the sky from the ground to warm a layer of air, usually located from 500 to 1000 feet above the valley floor. The idea of using wind machines successfully is to move this layer of warm air down to the trees on the ground.  If you are down on the valley floor, on most nights the warmer air is way too high up to bring it down to the ground with wind machines.  If an orchard is 500 feet above the valley floor on the side of a foothill, you might already be in the inversion layer and won't even need to start your wind machines, or at worst, the inversion layer is close enough to bring that warm air down to the trees with wind machines.  Unfortunately, the amount of land winter-warm enough for growing lemons in the foothills is very limited, and, currently, is occupied by other crops, probably citrus. We cannot grow lemons too high up in the foothills, because these areas are above the inversion layer and winter temperatures there will always be too cold for lemons.  Kern County, in general, appears to be colder than its neighbor Tulare County to the north, and usually suffers more in terms of fruit and tree losses during extreme frost events.

    Those bold enough to grow lemons appear to have more choices on which lemon to grow now than in the past. Some newer seedless or lower-seeded lemon varieties are available (https://citrusvariety.ucr.edu/ ). The Lisbon lemons, of which there are several selections, is an old Kern County standby, and appears to have better frost tolerance than the Eureka, commonly grown in the central and southern coastal areas. The Improved Meyer lemon is a hybrid, apparently, with citron, mandarin and pummelo heritage, and has excellent frost tolerance.  However, the fruit does not hold up well on the tree, in storage or ship very well, and few commercial groves exist. It remains a very popular and successful backyard tree for homeowners.

     With the threat of the Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) and the Huanglongbing disease it spreads, the feasibility of growing citrus under protective screens (CUPS) is under investigation.   These protective screens, in addition to keeping ACP out, would likely provide additional frost protection as well.

      The other obvious concern related to the number of enquiries I have received, is that even if lemons are not widely grown in Kern County now, worldwide demand suggests that there are likely many new acres of lemons in the ground now or in advanced planning stages in other locations in California, Arizona and the world.  In the past, we have seen the acreage of a number of crop commodities rise and fall with the laws of supply and demand. We have planted and then pulled lemons in Kern County before based on market conditions.  At some point, even unfrozen lemons will not sell if there are too many out there.

Figure 1.  Frozen mature lemon trees in photo background, after the 1998 freeze in the Edison area of Kern County.  Juvenile, undamaged navel orange trees in foreground (photo by Craig Kallsen).

 

Posted on Friday, June 21, 2019 at 7:13 AM
Tags: citrus (339), cold (5), damage (24), freeze (10), frost (19), lemon (100)

Which Way Weather?

In 2018 the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy (OVLC) accepted a grant from the Resources Legacy Fund on behalf of Watershed Coalition of Ventura County (WCVC) for a study of projected climate changes in Ventura County.  OVLC contracted with Drs. Nina Oakley and Ben Hatchett, climatologists with the Desert Research Institute (DRI), to evaluate historic climate variability and projected changes in Ventura County.  This information is needed to “paint a picture” of future climate in the watersheds of Ventura County (Ventura River, Santa Clara River, and Calleguas Creek) to support and inform climate change-related decision-making. This study provides important information for the amendment to WCVC's Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) Plan

You can find a copy of the report on the DRI website at: https://wrcc.dri.edu/Climate/reports.php.   

To view presentations and other information from the two WCVC Climate workshops conducted with Drs. Oakley and Hatchett in October of 2018, and April of this year please visit:  http://wcvc.ventura.org/documents/climate_change.htm

Some of those most interesting findings for me, are the historical data. For example, data for the years 1896 – 2018, show a tendency toward increasing maximum temperatures over the period, especially the last 10 years (Fig 1.2). But most interesting, is the increasing minimum temperatures (Fig 1.3) as compared to the maximum temperatures. Winter where is thy sting? The 2018-19 winter was the coldest in my memory, with the heater on full time at night, but there was no general frost damage this year. I can remember 1990 and 2007.

Precipitation in the South Coast region exhibits high interannual variability over the period examined. No notable long-term trends are observed (Fig. 1.4). Since approximately 2000, the 11-year running mean decreases, associated in part with the 2012–2019 drought. It is unclear whether this trend will continue in subsequent years.

There's a lot more information in the report.  READ On.

But something to keep in mind, is that we had a terrible heat wave last July, and it could easily happen again.  Growers who had their trees well hydrated before the heat arrived, sustain less or no damage to the trees and much less fruit drop.  Trees that were irrigated on the day it started to get hot, never had a chance to catch up with the heat.  Once the atmosphere starts sucking the tree dry, water movement through the soil, roots and trunk cant keep up with the demand.  Weather forecasting is pretty accurate 3 days out, and if heat is forecast, get those trees in shape.  You can run water to reduce the temperature and raise the humidity in the orchard to reduce transpirational demand which helps some.

Something we  learned last year.  What we saw and what to expect:

https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=27676

 

Map of elevational changes in Ventura County and how

elevation ventura
elevation ventura

Posted on Friday, June 14, 2019 at 6:27 AM
Tags: climate change (6), cold (5), frost (19), heat (6), rainfall (4), temperature (1)

Rehabilitation of Freeze Damaged Subtropical Fruit Trees

For the first time since the great freeze of '89-90, we have experienced a little more than minor damage to our crops. Compared to the San Joaquin Valley, Ventura country escaped without major damage; although there were some areas harder hit like the Ojai Valley and some canyons near Santa Paula. Many parts of the SJV were hard hit.

As in the freeze of 1990, your trees must be cared for in the same way during this post freeze period. In 1990, advice was issued to the grower about the rehabilitation of their trees, both citrus and avocado. We would like to review that information for you at this time. How can we best aid tree recovery so that tree growth and yield will proceed most rapidly?

FREEZE DAMAGE

Citrus and avocado leaves appear wilted or flaccid during periods of low temperature. This is a natural protective response to freezing temperatures and does not mean the leaves have been frozen. Leaves will be firm and brittle and often curled when frozen. Leaves become flaccid after thawing, and if the injury is not too great, they gradually regain turgor and recover, leaving however, dark flecks on the leaves. Seriously frozen leaves collapse, dry out, and remain on the tree. Foliage form recent flushes are most susceptible to this damage. If twigs or wood have been seriously damaged, the frozen leaves may remain on the tree for several weeks. If the twigs and wood have not been damaged severely, the leaves are rapidly shed. Trees losing their leaves rapidly is often a good sign and is not, as many growers believe a sign of extensive damage.

Cold damage to the twigs appears as water soaking or discoloration. In older branches and trunks it appears as splitting or loosening of bark where the cambium has been killed. Bark may curl and dry with many small cracks. Dead patches of bark may occur in various locations on limbs and trunk.

Sensitivity to frost is dependent upon many variables. In general, mandarins are the most cold hardy followed by sweet orange and grapefruit. Lemons are very frost sensitive with Eureka decidedly more sensitive than Lisbon. For avocados, Hass is about as cold tolerant as lemons, while Bacon is more cold tolerant. Limes are the least cold hardy. Healthy trees are more tolerant than stressed ones. The rootstock also imparts sensitivity onto the scion.

Injury to the foliage and to young trees may be immediately recognizable but the true extent of the damage to larger branches, trunks, and rootstocks may not appear for on to four months following the freeze. No attempt should be made to prune or even assess damage from the frost until spring when new growth appears.

WHITEWASHING

The only treatment that should be done rapidly after a freeze is whitewashing. Often the most sever damage following a freeze results from sunburn of exposed twigs and branches after defoliation. Avocados and lemons are the most susceptible to sunburn, oranges not as much; but, if the tree has been defoliated, applying whitewash would be precautionary. Temperatures do not have to be extremely high to cause sunburn.

PRUNING

Pruning should be carried out to prevent secondary pathogens and wood decay organisms from slowing tree recovery. Again, however, there should be no rush to prune. Premature pruning, at the very least, may have to be repeated and, at the worst, it can slow tree rehabilitation. It should be remembered that when pruning, all cuts should be made into living wood. Try to cut flush with existing branches at crotches. Do not leave branch stubs or uneven surfaces. Tools should be disinfected in bleach or other fungicide before moving on to the next tree.

The extent of pruning is dictated by the amount of freeze damage:

Light Damage Medium Damage Severe Damage Extreme Damage
Where only the foliage and small twigs are injured,pruning is not required Where a considerable part of the top has been killed but the trunk and main crown limbs show little damage, branches should be removed back to living wood above vigorous sprouts

Where the top and crown limbs are severely damaged but there are sprouts above the bud union, the tree should be cut back to the uppermost sprout

Where trees are killed to the bud union or the rootstock has been girdled, the trees should be removed and replaced with new trees

IRRIGATION

Irrigate carefully! Remember that when leaves are lost, obviously evaporation from leaves is greatly reduced, and, therefore the amount of water required is also greatly reduced. A frost-damaged tree will use the same amount of water as a much younger or smaller tree. Over irrigation will not result in rapid recovery. Instead, it may induce root damage and encourage growth of root rotting organisms. This is particularly true for avocados. Irrigation should be less frequent, and smaller amounts of water should be applied until trees have regained their normal foliage development.

FERTILIZATION

Fertilization of freeze-damaged trees should be carefully considered. There is no evidence to indicate that frozen trees respond to any special fertilizer that is supposed to stimulate growth. If trees are severely injured-with large limbs or even parts of the trunk killed-nitrogen fertilizer applications should be greatly reduced, until the structure and balance of the tree become re-established. Trees should be watched for evidence of deficiencies of minor elements. Deficiencies of zinc, manganese, copper, and iron are most likely to develop. For citrus, these materials should be applied as sprays, and they should be used as often as symptoms are observed. Two or more applications may be required the first year.

 

citrus frost
citrus frost

Posted on Tuesday, January 13, 2015 at 5:16 PM
Tags: avocado (289), citrus (339), cold (5), freeze (10), frost (19), subtropicals (9)

Frozen Citrus Fruit and Young Trees

Evaluating Damage to Baby Trees Requires Patience

Earlier temperatures and forecasted temperatures do not appear to be cold enough to freeze baby trees in the citrus belt. Time will tell. Semi-dormant wood in the winter looks dry even when it is healthy, so any final evaluation should be conducted in the warmth of spring. With warmer temperatures, frozen bark will peel easily from the young trunk and the degree of damage easily estimated. A tree, even those frozen down to the top of the wrap, can make an amazing recovery. Growers, in the summer after the 1990 freeze had some success budding onto the rootstocks that remained after the scions were killed by frost.

It may be better to replace a tree if it is still alive under the trunk wrap but badly damaged. Badly frozen trees regrow fairly slowly, and often are not able to resist pathogens that grow into the wood such as fungal Fusarium species causing dry root rot. Slow growing Fusarium in the wood can take up to 10 or 15 years to kill a tree.

 

Badly Frozen Young Trees

Badly frozen fruit may start dropping from the tree shortly after the freeze, but other fruit may hang on the tree longer than unfrozen fruit. Many growers resist picking or dropping frozen fruit in that it is another expense, at a time of little income. Reasons for dropping the fruit, even if it cannot be sold for juice, include:

Ensuring that the frozen fruit does not interfere with spring fruit set. Navel oranges, for example, will not set as much fruit if last season’s fruit remains on the tree.

Old frost-damaged fruit may harbor fungal pathogens that may infect the new crop, such as clear rot (Penicillium sp.), tear staining (Colletotrichum sp), brown rot (Phytophthora sps.) or Septoria organisms.

Avoiding having to separate last year’s partially frozen fruit from the new crop at harvest next year.

Preventing partially frozen fruit from providing habitat for insect pests.

 

citrus frost
citrus frost

Posted on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 7:48 AM
Tags: citrus (339), cold (5), damage (24), freeze (10), frost (19), fruit (18), winter (6)

Rehabilitating Frost Damaged Citrus and Avocado

For the first time since the great freeze of '89-90, we have experienced a little more than minor damage to our crops. Compared to the San Joaquin Valley, Ventura country escaped without major damage; although there were some areas harder hit like the Ojai Valley and some canyons near Santa Paula. Many parts of the SJV were hard hit.

As in the freeze of 1990, your trees must be cared for in the same way during this post freeze period. In 1990, advice was issued to the grower about the rehabilitation of their trees, both citrus and avocado. We would like to review that information for you at this time. How can we best aid tree recovery so that tree growth and yield will proceed most rapidly?

FREEZE DAMAGE

Citrus and avocado leaves appear wilted or flaccid during periods of low temperature. This is a natural protective response to freezing temperatures and does not mean the leaves have been frozen. Leaves will be firm and brittle and often curled when frozen. Leaves become flaccid after thawing, and if the injury is not too great, they gradually regain turgor and recover, leaving however, dark flecks on the leaves. Seriously frozen leaves collapse, dry out, and remain on the tree. Foliage form recent flushes are most susceptible to this damage. If twigs or wood have been seriously damaged, the frozen leaves may remain on the tree for several weeks. If the twigs and wood have not been damaged severely, the leaves are rapidly shed. Trees losing their leaves rapidly is often a good sign and is not, as many growers believe a sign of extensive damage.

Cold damage to the twigs appears as water soaking or discoloration. In older branches and trunks it appears as splitting or loosening of bark where the cambium has been killed. Bark may curl and dry with many small cracks. Dead patches of bark may occur in various locations on limbs and trunk.

Sensitivity to frost is dependent upon many variables. In general, mandarins are the most cold hardy followed by sweet orange and grapefruit. Lemons are very frost sensitive with Eureka decidedly more sensitive than Lisbon. For avocados, Hass is about as cold tolerant as lemons, while Bacon is more cold tolerant. Limes are the least cold hardy. Healthy trees are more tolerant than stressed ones. The rootstock also imparts sensitivity onto the scion.

Injury to the foliage and to young trees may be immediately recognizable but the true extent of the damage to larger branches, trunks, and rootstocks may not appear for on to four months following the freeze. No attempt should be made to prune or even assess damage from the frost until spring when new growth appears.

WHITEWASHING

The only treatment that should be done rapidly after a freeze is whitewashing. Often the most sever damage following a freeze results from sunburn of exposed twigs and branches after defoliation. Avocados and lemons are the most susceptible to sunburn, oranges not as much; but, if the tree has been defoliated, applying whitewash would be precautionary. Temperatures do not have to be extremely high to cause sunburn.

PRUNING

Pruning should be carried out to prevent secondary pathogens and wood decay organisms from slowing tree recovery. Again, however, there should be no rush to prune. Premature pruning, at the very least, may have to be repeated and, at the worst, it can slow tree rehabilitation. It should be remembered that when pruning, all cuts should be made into living wood. Try to cut flush with existing branches at crotches. Do not leave branch stubs or uneven surfaces. Tools should be disinfected in bleach or other fungicide before moving on to the next tree.

The extent of pruning is dictated by the amount of freeze damage:

Light Damage Medium Damage Severe Damage Extreme Damage
Where only the foliage and small twigs are injured,pruning is not required Where a considerable part of the top has been killed but the trunk and main crown limbs show little damage, branches should be removed back to living wood above vigorous sprouts

Where the top and crown limbs are severely damaged but there are sprouts above the bud union, the tree should be cut back to the uppermost sprout

Where trees are killed to the bud union or the rootstock has been girdled, the trees should be removed and replaced with new trees

IRRIGATION

Irrigate carefully! Remember that when leaves are lost, obviously evaporation from leaves is greatly reduced, and, therefore the amount of water required is also greatly reduced. A frost-damaged tree will use the same amount of water as a much younger or smaller tree. Over irrigation will not result in rapid recovery. Instead, it may induce root damage and encourage growth of root rotting organisms. This is particularly true for avocados. Irrigation should be less frequent, and smaller amounts of water should be applied until trees have regained their normal foliage development.

FERTILIZATION

Fertilization of freeze-damaged trees should be carefully considered. There is no evidence to indicate that frozen trees respond to any special fertilizer that is supposed to stimulate growth. If trees are severely injured-with large limbs or even parts of the trunk killed-nitrogen fertilizer applications should be greatly reduced, until the structure and balance of the tree become re-established. Trees should be watched for evidence of deficiencies of minor elements. Deficiencies of zinc, manganese, copper, and iron are most likely to develop. For citrus, these materials should be applied as sprays, and they should be used as often as symptoms are observed. Two or more applications may be required the first year.

 

frost
frost

Posted on Wednesday, December 4, 2013 at 2:29 PM
Tags: avocado (289), citrus (339), cold (5), freeze (10), frost (19), rehabilitation (2)
 
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