Seafood & Aquaculture Freeze Update, Hardee County Freeze Update (Updated 3:30)
Tri –County Area
The area of Putnam and St Johns County had hard freeze Saturday and Sunday. We had a light snow in south Putnam, Flagler, and Marion Counties on Saturday. The hard freeze on Saturday was 10-12 hours. The low reported on Sunday morning at Hastings was 23, also the low for Pierson (which has ferns and citrus) on Sunday morning was 23. (Terry Driggers, Senior Market Manager, Palatka State Farmers' Market)
Fern Growers/Volusia County
Fern growers are having major problems as it relates to the time and fuel cost in an already depressed industry to freeze protect. On top of this is the problem of the amount of water accumulated in the ferneries prohibits harvest etc. Major concern is the affect this will have on inventory going into Valentine’s day. Any possibility of help with disaster relief as it relates to fuel cost?(Edsel Redden, IFAS Ext. Agent)
Although the real extent of nursery crop damage and losses won’t start to fully manifest itself until after a few days of warmth (later this week), it’s safe to assume the damage/loss figure will be well in the 9-figures. We will keep you apprised as a clearer picture develops.
(Ben Bolusky, FNGLA)
West Central Florida
Last night this area experienced the coldest temperatures so far this season. Overnight the skies were clear and the winds calm, which plummeted temperatures to a low of 18–22 degrees throughout the region; breaking some record lows. As feared, strawberry growers had to turn their sprinklers on their crops earlier last night, approximately 5:30 p.m. and they were still operating at 8:30 a.m. this morning, with temperatures hovering around 30 degrees.
There is a covering of ice on the plants three quarter’s of an inch thick. There are also reports of some sprinklers icing up in the fields; causing a problem for some growers.
The extent of damage will not be fully known for 2–3 days after the ice melts.
That is when the growers will be able to get out into their fields and fully assess the damage. Citrus growers anticipate it could take five weeks to determine the full extent of damage to their crops.
The kumquat crop in Dade City (Pasco County) has reportedly all been destroyed.
Highs today are expected to reach into the low to mid 50’s with another freeze warning issued tonight beginning at 10 p.m. and lasting until 9 a.m. tomorrow morning.
Temperatures throughout the week are expected to warm up; with highs on Friday reaching into the low 70’s.This morning, a sink hole has reportedly opened up under a road in rural eastern Hillsborough County; due to the excessive irrigation of the surrounding strawberry fields.(Cindy Suszko, Regional Agricultural Market Supervisor Bureau of State Farmers' Markets)
Florida strawberries again experienced another severe night with some fields as low as 18 degrees. The longevity of this cold wave and the nightly duration of sub-freezing temperatures continues to be a great concern to the farmers.
At this time plant damage appears to be remarkably low and confined to areas experiencing isolated failures of irrigation equipment. Plants are obviously stressed from so many nights of watering, and harvesting is almost at a standstill.
Any freeze burn to the leaves will manifest itself several days afterward, and we are optimistic for a warm up by the weekend. Return of normal temperatures will generate new growth and bloom on the plants, and we should continue to harvest berries into the Spring.
I’ve talked with growers who had temps as low as 18; lot of ice, lot of water is the losses we’re seeing thus far is mainly due to mechanical failure; pumps, etc. In general, for as long and hard as this has been it hasn’t been as bad as it could have been. Another week will tell the tale though. Everything is virtually dormant right now. I’d say there’s been no more damage than you would expect; in fact it could have been worse. Of course, ice mitigation is hard on everyone. It’s been a brutal, brutal week.
Damage assessment doesn’t really materialize for several days after the warm up however.
(Ted Campbell, FL Strawberry Growers Assoc. Executive Director)
Strawberry growers continued to irrigate last night. The lowest temperature reported overnight in the Dover area was 19. Wind was not a problem, however. Veteran growers say they’ve never seen this many back-to-back nights of below-freezing weather. Water pressure in wells after so many nights of irrigation is a concern. Damage to the fruit is starting to show from being frozen and thawed so many times, and growers are starting to see bloom and plant damage. Fruit loss is still hard to gauge, however. A lot of the fruit on the plants now will have to be discarded. Growers are still trying to pick in between the freezing nights to the extent they can. Disease will be in issue three to four weeks down the road.
Lettuce/leafy greens in Belle Glade seem to have fared OK despite the frost. They’ll know better in four to five days; there has been damage but hopes are that it is minimal. Marketability will depend on how stringent customers are on quality. The fact that there won’t be a rapid warm-up over the next few days will work in growers’ favor in terms of minimizing damage to the plants.
Plants are stressed right now from experiencing one frost after another. Growers were prepared to start harvesting this morning oncethe ice was off, and will be keeping an eye on it over the next week. However, everyone’s concerned about the front that’s predicted for the coming weekend.
Citrus growers took a little more of a hit last night than last week, seeing more ice on the fruit from temperatures that dropped below freezing for 10 hours and into the 20s for six hours in some places. Losses still have not hit what anyone would call the catastrophic level, however. There will be more leaf damage. Growers are adjusting their harvesting schedule to get the early and mids off to processing.
(Lisa Lochridge, FFVA)
Homestead/Florida City temperatures dropped to the high 20’s with 10 mph winds (hard freeze) around 0200 this morning. Farmers started their overhead irrigation at this time and can be seen in avocado groves, snap bean, squash, tomato and zucchini fields.
(Paul Cardwell, State Farmer’s Markets)
Some growers reporter indicated 26 to 28 in some localized areas. Some beans and squash had significant damage but can’t give number just yet. Other crops as well.
(Don Pybas, Director Miami-Dade County Extension)
Central East Florida
Temperatures dropped to near 28° at sunrise in agricultural areas on both Sunday and Monday mornings. Durations below 32° ranged from 2-6 hours but citrus crops were spared damaging temperatures below 28° for any significant length of time. Light to moderate winds prevented frost formation in all but the most protected locations.
(Tim Gaver, IFAS Ext. Agent St. Lucie County)
We know there is some damage; we were cutting some slush which makes us fairly sure there’s been some citrus damage, but we won’t know the full extent for a few days.
What we do know is that fruit along the East Coast – Vero Beach to Ft. Pierce was not affected last night. The cold was mostly in a zone from Eustis to the Immokalee area. It didn’t get below 31 on the East Coast, but in the Central parts we had temps in the 20s – ranging from 25 to 27 – for more than 4 hours.(Charles Beasley, Chief, Inspection Bureau)
Strawberry field damage is very hard to evaluate at this time. Growers are more concerned about damage from water than anything else.
Grove owners seem to have dodged the bullet again although temperatures dropped below 28 degrees for as long as 10 hours. The low reported in Hardee County was 21 degrees. Only scattered reports of some slight slush in the Valencia crop and nothing in the early varieties, probably due to the high sugar content in the Hamlins. There does not seem to be any wood damage, but it is too early to tell what the leaf drop will be. There are lots of glossy, black and curled leaves. (Diana Durrance, Senior Market Manager, Hardee County)
Sea and Aqua Freeze Report
Freezing temperatures and winds have kept most fishermen at the docks. We will have to see what kind of damage has been done to the fish populations. I have heard of hundreds of fish floating in the canals. Don't know if they are stunned or dead, probably both. Most of our fronts are short lived, but we have broken records here in Lee County. (Rhonda Dooley, Executive Director, Florida Fishermen’s Federation)
We are having losses and there will be a lot more to come. It is still a little early to give numbers but we have two facilities, one in Plant City and losses so far are around 20% and the losses are higher at the Arcadia farm in Desoto County at about 35%. (Jason Diaz, 5-D Tropical, Inc., Plant City)
We have had significant losses but I do not know the full extent yet. I will send an update later this week. I thank you for your concerns and your efforts on behalf of our industry. (Martha Campbell, Florida Marine Aquaculture, Sun City Center)
No losses so far for Koi and Goldfish breeder in Pinellas Park. (Bob Heagey, Bonsai Aquaculture, Inc.)
Running more pumps and water and because of that no losses so far but will know more in a week when a better assessment can be made. (Angels Hatchery, Paul Radice, Homestead)
Has been doing this 40 years and never seen such a severe, sustained cold event. Covering ponds and running water constantly. Power out because of demand and is running diesel pumps and generators. Estimates losses so far to be 10-15% or about $50 thousand. (Rick Biro, Florida Exotic Fish, Homestead)
More marine fish and other marine life (crabs shrimp) are dying. Will probably lose the majority of stock stored in tanks. Estimates losses so far to be around $10-15 thousand. (Ken Nedimyer, Sea Life, Inc. Tavernier)
Koi and Goldfish are OK so far. Not expecting major losses. Fish are cold hardy. (Blackwater Creek Koi Farms, Eustis)
Koi are fine so far. Lost 100% of tilapia breeders in covered ponds. Sold off most of tilapia stock before the freeze.(Eco Sciences, Leesburg)
Have been a fish farmer for 28 years and has never seen Serpae tetras and log fin black tetras die from cold! The lemon tetras were dying in ponds that have been covered for months! Expecting more losses as week progresses.(Sunrise Tropicals, )
Clams OK so far. No change from last week (Placida Gold Farms, Winter Haven)
Thank you all very much for your cooperation!