Nut growers welcome the cold weather

jsmith@mercedsunstar.comJanuary 12, 2013 

— Freezing weather through the weekend is bad news for many Valley farmers but not in Merced County, where many nut growers welcome the frosty conditions.

"For us out here the cold nights are good," said Maxwell Norton, University of California Cooperative Extension adviser. "We fare quite well because we don't grow subtropical crops like citrus and avocados."

Crops such as Merced County's second largest commodity, almonds, benefit from the colder temperatures -- something this winter has yet to see enough of, Norton said.

"Cold weather is good for our tree nuts," he said. "Almonds need several hundred hours of cold temperatures below 45 degrees. It's actually been a fairly warm winter in this respect so far. Whenever we have a low number of chilling hours it affects the bloom negatively."

Unlike Merced County, in areas with significant citrus farming, growers spend a lot of money on frost protection, such as in Madera, Kern, Tulare and Fresno counties, Norton added.

However, that doesn't mean some area farmers don't have to take precautions.

Certain storage facilities need to be diligent about maintaining proper temperatures, said Scott Stoddard, UC Extension farm adviser.

"We have a lot of sweet potatoes in storage," he said. "The guys need to make sure their storage rooms are working properly and don't get too cold. It doesn't take a lot. All it has to do is get below 50 degrees, and you can have big problems."

Temperatures today are expected to dip to 26 degrees and stay below freezing at night until Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

Reporter Joshua Emerson Smith can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or jsmith@mercedsunstar.com.

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