Today’s Agriculture Moment: Crop Damage

I was sitting at my desk about three weeks ago during one of the uncharacteristically rainy days of our uncharacteristic spring, and the soft sound of the rain on the flat roof of our office began to turn to a hard, snapping noise. I looked up, as if I would see anything besides the dropped ceiling marked with the concentric stains of a winter’s worth of leaks on the acoustic tile from the roof of the old former grocery warehouse building we occupy.

Hail?

Within seconds, the tapping pings had grown to a furious roar, and everyone in the office was out of their chairs and on a dead run to the front of the building. Being in a former warehouse, there are windows only in the lobby, so we all converge there whenever there is Weather.

And indeed, it was hailing, marble-sized and shooter marble-sized rounded chunks of ice, pounding down on the pavement in a deafening cacophony, covering the road with a solid blanket of white, something you’ll see only with hail in central California, as there’s no snow to speak of in the Valley. Leaves were flying off the Bradford pear trees in the bank parking lot across the street. We were all thinking the same thing.

The fruit.

There are a lot of things that grow in Fresno County that hail is bad for; pretty much any fruit that grows on a tree can’t be said to benefit from it, plus almonds. Hail can wholesale knock fruit off a tree. If the fruit is hit but not dislodged, a small scratch on a tiny piece of fruit early on becomes a big scar on a fully-grown piece of fruit much later, and there’s not a whole lot to be done about it until the scars are big enough to see.

It only hailed for a few minutes, thank goodness, but this spring has been a real pummeling from Mother Nature for Fresno County. Yesterday, the Bee led with a story by Dennis Pollock, who covers agriculture, that Fresno and Tulare counties have experienced an estimated $34 million in crop damage. $21 million of that was Fresno County.

(The other story above the fold was about three pit bulls attacking a herd of goats, resulting in 88 of them having to be destroyed. Yikes.)

Anyway, it might rain a little bit tonight and tomorrow, which nobody is happy about, but after that it looks like we’ll finally start to get into at least some of Fresno’s famous blazing-to-the-point-of-frightening sunshine, which should help everything get dried out and on its way, maybe a little later than usual, but on its way nonetheless.

So hold your horses, everybody (and guard your goats); the fruit’s coming.

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