(Sept. 5) In the wake of a spring heat wave at the height of the pomelo bloom, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated California’s top citrus producing county, Tulare County, a disaster area.

Tulare County Deputy Agriculture Commissioner Marilyn Kinoshita said the unusually hot temperatures during the first two weeks of May devastated the pomelo crop. She estimated 80% of the county’s pomelo crop was lost. She said the financial loss to pomelo growers would be $2.4 million.

Pomelos represent less than 1% of Tulare County’s citrus acreage. Kinoshita said there are 865 acres of pomelos but that the county’s total citrus acreage is about 120,000 acres.

Four other California counties, Fresno, Kern, Inyo and Kings, are included in the disaster declaration. Their pomelo crops are small.

Fresno County Agriculture Commissioner Jerry Prieto said citrus acreage in his county is about 35,300. But only seven acres are planted in pomelos, he said.

Prieto said the unusually warm May temperatures caused petal drop during the bloom. As a result, he said the trees were not pollinated.

Kinoshita said Tulare County requested the disaster declaration on June 13. The U.S. Department of Agriculture granted the declaration the week of Aug. 28.

The disaster declaration means growers affected by the heat wave will be able to obtain low interested federal loans.