California citrus growers joined their fellow farmers and ranchers in suffering through the worst wildfire season in California history. Some groves were directly threatened by wildfire, and many were located in growing areas that were blanketed with smoke for weeks or months.
Smoke exposure resulted in employee time loss due to respiratory illness, and an increase in asthma and allergy problems with residents. Due to heavy smoke in some areas, recently planted orchards were observed as growing more slowly than expected. Also, in some locations, the lack of sunlight temporarily affected the color of the crop. Fortunately, the color came back once the smoke cleared out.
As winter progressed, it became clear it was not going to be a bumper year for rain. Rainfall totals were below normal, and April’s measurement of the Sierra snowpack was about 59% of average.
Earlier this month, California Gov. Newsom announced that, to reduce the threat of another year of devastating wildfires, the state is spending $536 million for wildfire prevention. The money is to provide improved prevention for all areas of California. It is expected to pay for forest maintenance, defensible space, home hardening for rural residents and vegetation management.
“With California facing another extremely dry year, it is critical that we get a head start on reducing our fire risk,” said Newsom, Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins and California State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon in a joint statement.
Last month, Newsom authorized more than $80 million in emergency funds to hire an additional 1,400 firefighters with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Altogether, the state is allocating an additional $1 billion for fire suppression this wildfire season.
Learn what growers need to know about California wildfire smoke rules.