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What the Heat Wave Means for California’s Crops

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The heat wave that pushed inland temperatures into triple-digits for days is finally wearing off, but farmers are still figuring out how it will affect their crops.

It’s a mixed bag, depending on what a farmer grows.

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“Fruit can actually get sunburned,” explains Dave Kranz of the California Farm Bureau. Walnuts and tomatoes can, too. So, Kranz says, some farmers paint a protective coating on the fruits, to help reflect the heat.

Milk production may go down, too, since, Kranz says, “dairy cows will get a little bit stressed in hot weather, just like people can be.”

Other crops are happily soaking up the rays. Roger Scommegna from Napa-based Three Thieves Winery says the hot weather means the grapes are producing a lot of sugar, which is a good thing.

“It’s a really good time for a heat wave. If we’re going to have one, right now is a good time,” he says. “We’re going to get some good growth out of it.”

Scommegna says he adjusts hours when there’s a heat wave, to help keep farmworkers safe; they start earlier, and get out of the fields before the hottest part of the day.

It’s too early to tell what — if any — impact the heat will have on harvests or on prices at the store.

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Category: Food, News

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About the Author ()

Molly Samuel joined KQED as an intern in 2007, and since then has worked here as a reporter, producer, director and blogger. Before becoming KQED Science’s Multimedia Producer, she was a producer for Climate Watch. Molly has also reported for NPR, KALW and High Country News, and has produced audio stories for The Encyclopedia of Life and the Oakland Museum of California. She was a fellow with the Middlebury Fellowships in Environmental Journalism and a journalist-in-residence at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center. Molly has a degree in Ancient Greek from Oberlin College and is a co-founder of the record label True Panther Sounds.