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Late freeze: major table grape damage

A late April cold snap that hit much of the California’s coastal and interior valleys took a toll on table grapes. But while the unexpected cold temperatures April 21 devastated some growers’ crops, in the state’s overall production it was not that extensive.

The area that was hit the hardest for table grapes was Tulare County, east of the city of Tulare.

“This was one of the most damaging frosts in recent memory (in the areas affected), with probably two to three million boxes removed from expected production,” says Barry Bedwell, president of the California Grape and Tree Fruit League at Fresno. “But looking at the big picture, California will still probably exceed 2007 production of approximately 92 million boxes of table grapes.”

Even so, it was a disaster for some growers, according to Bill Peacock, University of California Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor in Tulare County. He estimates as much as 5 million to 6 million boxes were lost.

“Some of the lower-lying areas got hit hard; some growers that lost their entire vineyards. It was very unusual in that it happened so late.”

Others in Tulare County are reporting similar damage, and even growers who didn’t lose everything now face a choice. “The big question is, how do you farm a crop if you’ve lost half of it,” Peacock asks? “Table grapes are expensive to grow. Do you continue to farm it, take it to wine, or do something else?”

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