April 6, 2010

2010 First Quarter Weather Synopsis

Temperatures in January were colder than usual. During the second week of January, temperatures deviated drastically from normal with 12 to 19 degrees below average in major cities. Freeze damage occurred in most vegetable areas. Precipitation was high mid-January with the Panhandle and northern region receiving the most rain. Seventy-five percent of the subsoil moisture was adequate to surplus. Throughout January, abundant rains coupled with cold postponed vegetable harvest. Continual sub-freezing temperatures caused extensive damage to vegetable crops.

Growers in south Florida reported losses to snap beans, squash, and tomatoes. Strawberry growers made efforts to minimize fruit loss through irrigation. To assist growers, a state of emergency for agricultural crops was issued the second week of January, easing restrictions on truck weights and irrigation limitations. Due to freeze damage, movement was below normal for many vegetables towards the end of January. Also during this time land preparation began for spring vegetables in the Panhandle.

For February, nightly temperatures were lower than usual. Mid-February, temperatures were 6 to12 degrees below normal with snow falling in parts of the Panhandle. Soil moisture ratings were continually high with 83% or more county extension agents reporting adequate to surplus soil moisture. All areas of the State received rain during the month of February. In Manatee County, producers reported flooding in vegetable beds. These producers completed tomato planting in mid-February. Planting was delayed in Walton County due to surplus rains. Spring melons were planted in the Lake Okeechobee area. Vegetable growers in the western Panhandle had problems preparing bedding and laying plastic due to cold and wet weather. Similar weather conditions caused extensive damage to snap beans. In the Hastings area, harvesting of cabbage was behind schedule and development was slow. Sub-freezing temperatures were experienced in all regions of the State.

Temperatures were 9 to 13 degrees below normal for the first week of March. During the second week, severe storms, high winds, and heavy rains were observed in many areas. Cold weather hindered vegetable growth in many regions. Volusia County reported watermelons showing little growth for weeks. During the first week of March, production was below normal for cabbage, celery, sweet corn, endive, escarole, radishes, and tomatoes. Cabbage farmers were finding it difficult to meet demand for Saint Patrick’s Day. Vegetable growers laid plastic and drip irrigation systems and continued spring vegetable planting. In Highlands County, growers planted cucumbers, watermelon, and snap beans. Disease was a concern for regions that received abundant amounts of rain. During the last week of March, tomatoes, watermelons, and other commercial vegetables were planted in the Panhandle.

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