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» January 17, 2007 «
They've been on high alert for days, protecting their crops from harsh cold. Now, family farmers must assess damage from sub-freezing weather that blanketed California. The state Department of Food and Agriculture said yesterday (Tuesday) it expects damage totals to reach the hundreds of millions of dollars, but that more specific estimates remain days away. While farmers tally the damage, they also work to assure that any produce sent to consumers retains the highest possible quality.
Frost protection measures have had some success in shielding California-grown citrus fruit from severe cold weather. The question that remains to be answered is how successful those efforts turned out to be. Because of the extreme cold in citrus-growing areas, farmers expect significant losses to lemons, navel oranges and other fruit. Farmers have been running wind machines and water to warm orchard temperatures and say that has helped to moderate damage in recent nights.
Avocado, strawberry and vegetable growers are assessing damage from cold temperatures, which dropped lower than expected in many growing regions. Freeze damage becomes apparent in avocado groves when fruit drops from trees, and some farmers report that has begun to happen. Damage to strawberries will reduce supplies on the market for the next few weeks. The cold weather has caused delays and some crop damage affecting the winter harvest of lettuce and other vegetables in the California desert.
Dairy farmers work to keep their cows comfortable during this cold spell. And veterinarians advise farmers to feed their cows added nutrients to maintain milk production. The freeze appears to have damaged some alfalfa that would eventually be turned into feed for dairy cows. Beekeepers have been providing their "livestock" with extra food, in the form of sugar water. During extreme cold, the bees huddle in their hives and feed on stored honey.Top