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Wind machines protect orchards from freezing temperatures

Posted at 6:17 PM, Feb 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-08 22:04:38-05

Freezing temperatures can cause fruit loss and even tree damage for avocado growers.

That’s why local farmers are doing all they can to protect their crops.

Nestled in Sisquoc, about seven miles from Highway 101 in Santa Maria, is Rancho Tepusquet Orchards.

There are more than 80 acres of avocados alongside a handful of wind machines that can be used when the temperatures plummet.

“(Wind machines) that move the air, that mix the warm air with the cold,” explained Chris Hammell, Avocado Orchard Supervisor at Rancho Tepusquet Orchards.

Zeferino Gutierrez has taken care of the avocado orchard for the last ten years. He says the wind machines protect the orchard.

“In 31 degrees or 30, we have damage to the avocado fruit, the trees so we need to take care. We have the big fan,” Gutierrez said.

Once they get a notification that it’s 31 degrees or colder, they fire up the machines and they run for about eight hours.

“This morning we start like three o’clock,” Gutierrez said.

In a four-month frost period, the machines are used about a dozen times. But for the past three days, they’ve been cranked up every day.

“This is uncommon to start off February. Usually when we have our issues is in December and January,” Hammell said.

There’s a lot at stake. The avocados have been on the trees since April of last year and are getting ready to be pulled by March or April of this year.

New flowers will soon come through with new fruit for 2020.

For this orchard, back in 2013, the frost was so bad, they had to stump all of the trees.

“We had it like 21 degrees,” Gutierrez explained.

The wind machines were not yet installed. But this winter, they’re proving to be a success with no damage to the 9,600 trees.

“We need to take care the whole winter. It’s very important to keep healthy,” Gutierrez said.

The orchard says it’s planning on using the machines again next Monday and Tuesday.

Sprinklers will protect the wine grapes on the property starting in March.