February 11, 2009

Impending Freeze Preparations Around The State

Potatoes, Cabbage, Greens, English Peas – N.E. Florida
Growers are covering potato plants with soil and increasing cabbage picking in St Johns/Putnam/Flagler Counties. Mustard & turnip greens, cabbage, and English peas harvest increased in Columbia County.

Strawberries – Hillsborough/Polk/Seminole
Tonight, the Tampa Bay area could see record breaking low temperatures. There has been a hard freeze warning issued for the local area from approx. 1:00 a.m. until 9:00 a.m., Thursday morning (2/5/09); with the exception of Pinellas and Sarasota counties. Those two counties are under a regular freeze warning. In the Plant City/Dover area, meteorologists are predicting temperatures in the low 20s and holding for several hours with windy conditions. Citrus and Hernando counties could dip down into the teens for a prolonged period of time. Strawberry farmers in eastern Hillsborough generally escaped serious damage from the January freeze but may not be that lucky tonight. Growers are really worried about this one because of the windy conditions expected. Temperatures there are forecast to drop below freezing at midnight and not rebound until 9 a.m. Thursday. Growers will be irrigating all night.

Hillsborough/Polk – Tropical Fish Farms
Tropical Fish farms covered their ponds, pumped well water into the ponds to raise water temperature and moved hatchery fish inside.

Produce – Immokalee Area
Temp was 35 this morning, everyone is preparing for tonight. Several different methods of protection are being used so it will be interesting to see if any of them work. Other than flooding, overhead water, nets, or helicopters some growers are placing Styrofoam cups over the very small plants, some are spraying with a “crop protectant”, some are mounding soil around the young plants, some are using straw to cover plants, some are using ground cloths, everyone seems to be saturating their fields and buying thermometers.

Citrus - South FL
Growers are irrigating today to raise the moisture content in the soil as well as flooding the area to raise the water table. If conditions remain calm tonight, they will continue to irrigate. They are anticipating 6 to 8 hours of 32 degree and below temperatures and 0-2 hours of 28 degree and below temperatures. They expect economic losses due to fruit and tree damage to be “minimal”. Their survey of the most recent freeze indicated that economic losses were also “minimal”. The last freeze caused leaf damage and they expect a similar outcome for tonight’s freeze.

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