Florida Growers Prepare for Freezing Temperatures

specialtyFlorida is off to a cool start in 2018 as parts of the state anticipate freezing temperatures during the rest of the week. According to Lisa Lochridge, director of public affairs for the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, Florida growers are doing what they can to prepare for the cold.

Lochridge says that Florida fruit and vegetables are well into their winter season, making the upcoming weather a concern. In southwest Florida, Gene McAvoy, a regional vegetable Extension agent at the University of Florida, says growers in his area have several vegetable crops in the ground that are sensitive and will be susceptible to cold damage.

Lisa Lochridge

The sensitive crops, including cucumbers and green beans, do not like even a cool wind. “It (the cool wind) knocks the blossoms off and it tatters the leaves. So, that’s going to cause issues even if we don’t get those freezing temperatures over the next few weeks,” McAvoy explains.

Thursday and Friday night will be the biggest concern for most of the state as temperatures drop into the 30s and, in some areas, the high 20s. Right now, growers are taking every precaution they can to protect their crops from the weather.

Lochridge says many South Florida crops are underway in their harvesting season, so growers are trying to harvest as much as they can before the cold hits.

Gene McAvoy

For the crops that cannot be harvested, McAvoy says most growers are going to run water to protect the crops from freezing. “Water comes out of the ground in South Florida at about 60 degrees, so by running irrigation when temperatures dip, you can try to create a microclimate,” he says.

Another protection tool growers may use is covering the crops. However, McAvoy warns that this method is laborious and expensive. Also, if the winds pick up, the covers can be blown off the crop.

Lochridge is confident that Florida growers are as ready as they possibly can be as the freezing temperatures approach.

McAvoy says the temperature predictions in southwest Florida currently are borderline freezing at 32 to 33 degrees Fahrenheit predicted. “Hopefully it stays like that,” he concludes.

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Dan Cooper

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