UC Survey Analyzing Drought's Impact on Citrus

8/12/2014

There is no doubt the current statewide water shortage in California is negatively impacting citrus growers in the nation's top agricultural county, but what exactly is happening and how are growers dealing with it?

The University of California Cooperative Extension in Tulare County wants to know. Farm advisor Neil O'Connell said the impact should be recorded.

"There are a lot of approaches being used by the growers and the districts, who are also doing their part to help out [during this water shortage]," he said. "It's a huge problem, so I wanted to get some record of how people are dealing with it."

Last year, oranges in Tulare County had a total value of more than $854 million, according to the 2013 Tulare County Annual Crop and Livestock Report.

O'Connell, who specializes in citrus, said replies to his survey have been arriving daily since the survey was first sent out in early June.

"I don't know that it will [help in the future], other than the fact that if we do run into a situation like this in the future and somebody asks if someone kept record of any kind of how growers dealt with this, then this information will be available," he said. "I'm the only one doing it. It's something that occurred to me early on when we knew what we were facing. I put it together and sent it out."

The 17-question survey can be found on the UC Cooperative Extension's website and at their office. A hard copy can be requested by phone at 559-684-3300.

Some of the survey questions included were: number of acres of citrus farmed, normal surface water allocation per acre, surface water allocation for 2014, percentage of citrus not to be irrigated, if pump water is available on ranch and acres of citrus removed because of water shortage.

Surveys will be summarized in about a month or two. That's when O'Connell will see what the general trend was.

A majority of county citrus growers get water from the irrigation districts they belong to, but this year, that allocation has been close to zero, O'Connell said. It's actually zero in some Tulare County cases.

"Some growers have water pumps and they think they'll have enough to carry them through the irrigation season, but a lot don't," he said. "In a lot of cases, these pumps are not enough and can't provide all the water they need."

Source: www.visaliatimesdelta.com