Cold Snap Threatens Southern California's Avocado Crop Ahead of Guac Season

Cold weather threatens the chance of repeating last year's banner avocado harvest.

By Lolita Lopez
|  Friday, Jan 11, 2013  |  Updated 3:38 PM PDT
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Avocado farmers in Santa Paula will be pulling all-nighters trying to keep avocado trees from freezing. As the Super Bowl approaches, guacamole lovers share the farmers concerns. Lolita Lopez reports from Santa Paula for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on January 10, 2013.

Lolita Lopez

Avocado farmers in Santa Paula will be pulling all-nighters trying to keep avocado trees from freezing. As the Super Bowl approaches, guacamole lovers share the farmers concerns. Lolita Lopez reports from Santa Paula for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on January 10, 2013.

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Frigid overnight temperatures have put Southern California’s agriculture industry, particularly avocado growers, on high alert.

Growers in Ventura County call it “make or break time.” They said the avocados are sizing up nicely, but they need them on the trees a while longer before picking at the beginning of the spring.

It’s a critical time for the industry if it wants to repeat the year avocados had in 2012 when 475 pounds were harvested and marketed by California growers.

Andy Coker is an assistant manager for the Limoneria Company farm in Santa Paula, a leading grower of avocados, lemons and oranges. He plans to be working “all nighters, all weekend probably for the next four or five days,“ trying to keep hundreds of acres of avocado trees warm.

He said the freezing temperatures expected in the area can destroy the fruit well before they are ready to be taken off the trees. Frost and freeze watches are in effect for overnight Friday into Saturday.

“If you can keep the roots warm that will keep the tree itself from completely dying,” said Coker.

California has more than 60,000 acres of avocado orchards. Heavy cold or strong winds could destroy the livelihood of thousands of farmers and workers.

Limoneria has wind machines on hand to balance the feel in the air. Coker explained the cold settles at ground level and wind actually warms the air. If it gets really cold, irrigation systems are activated.

The energy of the running water can also protect from frost.

As the Super Bowl, and guacamole dipping season approaches, it’s not only the farmers who have an interest in keeping these avocados on the trees.

“It’s pretty much going to affect everybody because the market place will drop a lot and the consumer price of avocados will go up a significant amount,” said Coker. 

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