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Growers battle to save fruit as cold temperatures sweep California

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Saturday, December 7, 2013, 7:17 PM -

The cold weather sweeping across much of the United States is threatening California's $2 billion annual citrus crop. 

John S. Gless is the vice-president and manager of Gless Ranch, which grows oranges, lemons and grapefruit on 2,000 hectares, 161 kilometres north of Los Angeles. He spends his nights shuttling from field to field where costly wind machines are warming up the groves by a few, but critical, degrees that can make all the difference once temperatures dip dangerously low. 

"It's not just how cold it gets, but the duration of time," said Gless. "I don't think it's going to get cold enough to hurt the trees, but it could definitely harm, freeze the fruit and we're doing everything we can to beat it." 

Growers also warm the ground by saturating it with water. But they must do that before their pipes freeze. Gless says its a tricky job and refuses to delegate it to anyone else. 

"I've got a great crew that's with me, but no, no, it's hands-on you gotta be out here," he said. 

Growers in the region have spent nearly $7 million battling freezing temperatures. 

Gless says he hasn't slept in three days. 

"The next week is going to be a tough one, but I think we're going to beat it." 

And that means you're less likely to see higher prices at the supermarket.

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