Fox News Weather Center

California Drought Causes Shrinking Crops, Not Nutrients

The drought in California has been challenging farmers to find new ways to grow produce with limited water resources.

Because there is less water for the crops, some fruits such as pomegranates and berries are smaller in size. But just because they are smaller, does not mean they have less nutrients.

Dr. Tiziana Centofanti, a researcher at the Center for Irrigation Technology at Fresno State, has been studying the effects that the drought has had on different crops.

"We expected to see that less water would cause a response in the plant where we might see a high concentration of vitamins and antioxidants, but we actually are not seeing that," Centofanti said. "But we've only been studying these plants for three years, which is not a lot of time."

Centofanti said that there has been a decrease in yield of crops because of the drought in California. Many crops also look a little bit different with less water: colors are darker, fruit matures quicker and some crops are slightly softer than normal.

The drought in California began in winter of 2011 and is considered to be one of the worst multiple-year drought in state history.

AccuWeather Meteorologist Ken Clark said that this drought is caused by "persistent high pressure farther north than usual in the eastern Pacific, which has been causing storms in the past years to go more to the north than they usually do."

Clark also said that because of the extremely low water level in reservoirs, the amount of water allocated to the farmers has been drastically reduced.

"Farmers are having to rely on groundwater wells to supply them with the necessary water to irrigate," Clark said. "This is expensive to do and has ramifications in itself in lowering the groundwater table."

It is hard to predict how long this drought will last, Clark said. Even if this year had a good amount of precipitation, the drought will take more time to end.

"The big thing that needs to happen is that reservoirs need to have a higher percentage of water compared to normal than they do now, so some of the restrictions can be lifted next year," Clark said. "My guess is that this year will not be as bad as last, but it will not be a normal rain or snow season from central California on south."

Centofanti said that if the drought continues, she will have clearer results on her research, but it will be very hard for farmers to continue to grow their crops.

"It would mean changing an entire farming system in the central valley," Centofanti said. "We will definitely have to find different strategies to deal with water shortage and the drought."

It also means changing farmers' and consumers' attitudes toward these smaller fruits.

"We will have to develop a niche market for this kind of produce so consumers know what it means -- that it's grown with less resources," Centofanti said. "That way there will be a new market and new farmers can explore a new industry with less water."