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Did Oranges splitting cause headaches for local growers?

You know how it is when you drink a whole lot of water and someone jumps up and down on your stomach? Well, maybe you don’t. But apparently local oranges, having drunk deeply of this year’s ample rainfall, got a kick in the mid-section when they were suddenly hit by sub-freezing temps Monday and Tuesday.

It was splitsville, man! At least for some of the citrus crops in Valley Center and reportedly in Fallbrook. Photos of oranges splitting open and looking like Nature’s version of Pac-Man were all over social media early this week.

But was it caused by the freezing, which, while dipping below 32 degrees several times this week, never stayed there more than a few hours? The killing fronts that are known to do great harm to local citrus crops invariably are caused by several days of temperatures that stay freezing.

Chuck Badger, Jr. is a longtime citrus grower in Rancho Santa Fe, Elfin Forest and Olivenhain and a prominent member of the San Diego County Farm Bureau who called us back when we asked the Bureau if it knew of any cases of frost split oranges.

“Not really,” he said. “There’s split oranges almost every year. And we still don’t know what causes it, despite a lot of scientific research by the UC San Diego Extension.”

It make sense this year that after all this rain that the fruit might have thinner skins. “But we’re not sure. We see some split citrus every year. We see it in the springtime. I don’t think it’s related to the cold more than the heavy rain. But no one knows for sure. A lot of money has been put into it but it is still not solved.”

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