December 7, 2010

December 7 Freeze Update

The National Weather Service has issued hard freeze warnings for Tuesday night into Wednesday morning for much of the Florida panhandle, with freeze warnings and watches extending as far south as Hollywood. Less wind is expected tonight. Fort Lauderdale recorded its lowest temperature on record for December 7, dropping to 40 degrees Tuesday morning. The old record was 42, set in 1841. Here are the updates we received so far from around the state.
Updated 3:10pm

More near-record lows expected overnight will pose another challenge.
"We came through last night in pretty good shape, we had some reports of mid-20s scattered across the citrus belt but it wasn't for any duration."
Andrew Meadows, Florida Citrus Mutual

Eastern Hillsborough County experienced temperature conditions to the existing strawberry fields that warranted many of the farmers turning on their water. At the Plant City State farmers Market (SFM) low temperature reading was 33 degrees; however, the Florida Strawberry Growers Association (FSGA) is reporting that temperatures, coupled with elevated winds, showed isolated area temperatures as low as 29 degrees. Duration for watering did not exceed five hours. A number of fields were still watering as late as 7:15 AM, with a light accumulation of ice on the property fencing. The FSGA stated that 28 degrees is a magic temperature number for early stages of damage, but that no farmers were reporting any as of 8:30 AM.

Michael C. Tucker, Senior Market Manager, Plant City State Farmers Market

It is the first week of December and farmers are already scrambling to make sure sprinklers and water pipes are working. The wind worsens the problem because it blows the water around, so the berries don't get consistent coverage and the cold burns them. It turns out the timing of this freeze couldn't be worse because harvesting just started a couple of weeks ago. Parkesdale pickers filled a pallet of berries on Monday. "We got a lot of flower out there and that's what we're really trying to protect is our flower because it’s so sensitive. The flower gets burned real easy and then it will be a deformed berry or won't produce a berry and once that happens well, that was what you were going to be picking in a couple weeks.”
Matt Parke, Parkesdale Farms, Dover

Widespread frost around SW Florida with lows between 29-31 degrees, depending on the location. Some crop damage especially to sensitive items like cucumbers, corn, melons, bean - foliage tops frosted in tomatoes, eggplants - nothing catastrophic reported. Pasture grasses frosted and burned. Citrus OK
Gene McAvoy , County Extension Director, UF/IFAS Hendry County Extension

The growing region sustained more damage in fields farther away from Belle Glade। “There’s definitely damage here, but it’s too early to tell how much. There may be more damage out there farther away from the lake (Lake Okeechobee). I haven’t talked with all the growers, but I think everyone has a little bit of damage.”
Randy Wilkinson, president, Wilkinson-Cooper Produce Inc, Belle Glade

Southwest Florida citrus farmers are still reeling from record losses last year. Citrus growers say all they can do is make sure their irrigation systems are working properly so when they turn them on this evening, the water will keep their oranges frost-free. It's the first time this season they'll need to use the system to protect all 5,000 acres of trees from frost. Last season's cold snap brought 26 straight days of freezing temperatures. Sorrells lost 30,000 trees. The trees can withstand 32 degrees for 8 hours and 28 degrees for 6 hours.
Justin Sorrells of Sorrells Citrus, Inc.

The tomato industry is still struggling from last winter. Pacific Tomato Grower is one of the three largest tomato farms in the country. That fact could weigh against them as preparation for a cold snap would take days. "Well, we have 2,000 acres that's a lot of covering." So instead of using freeze cloths, they'll use water and wait out the cold. "You can build the temperature up a couple degrees with water, and that's about it. But sometimes a couple degrees is all it takes. If it goes three, four, five hours, we could be just like last year and that'd be a real bad thing,"
Britt Keene, manager, Pacific Tomato Grower, Ave Maria

Tender green beans and sweet corn are most at risk as cold temperatures not seen this early since 1937 are expected to descend on parts of Palm Beach County, the nation's No. 1 winter vegetable producer. The earliest freeze on record in Belle Glade was Dec. 7, 1937, and this morning's temperatures were forecast to match that. With their Christmas crops in the fields, growers scrambled Monday to harvest what they could. Tens of millions of dollars' worth of vegetables are vulnerable.
David Sui, Palm Beach County vegetable extension agent

The next few days will be tough for farmers from the Everglades Agricultural Area to Immokalee, with Wednesday and Thursday mornings also expected to be freezing. "This could have a dramatic effect on availability and prices for Christmas and New Year's food buying. Growers plant for December harvest, but we do not normally have to contend with freezing temps until after the first of the year."
John Hundley, vice president, Hundley Farms, Belle Glade

Temperatures in the Hardee County vicinity dropped as low as 26. Most areas reported freezing temperatures by 11PM. The strawberry farmers ran their irrigation for 2 -3 hours. Most of the vegetables here were already over. There was a hard frost and pasture grass saw significant damage.
Diana Durrance, Senior Market Manager, Wauchula State Farmers’ Market

Freeze warnings sent orange juice futures soaring to their highest level in three-and-a-half years on Monday also. Barring drastic variances from the forecast lows, the cold could actually aid the Florida citrus crop by putting trees into a dormant state that prevents new leaf growth while continuing to bear fruit. Those new leaves and shoots are most vulnerable to future freezes, and Florida citrus growers said that the early cold snap could act like a vaccination against further cold weather this winter.
The Produce News

Tomato growers already know that their crop sustained damage from Monday night's freeze, with two more rough nights on the way. Florida tomato production is mostly located in the southwestern part of the state, where temperatures are often colder than inland and further north in a geographic anomaly. "There has definitely been some pretty good damage; we'll get a better feel over the next couple of days. We're expecting more of the same tonight and tomorrow -- same thing upper 20s and lower 30s. We'll have a fight on our hands the next couple of days."
Bob Spencer, West Coast Tomato, Palmetto, FL

1 comment:

  1. Tim Gaver, Extension Agent - Citrus, St. Lucie CountyDecember 07, 2010

    Citrus growers in the Indian River area reported some temperatures below 28 degrees, with durations generally less than 2 hours. Lots of ground frost was evident as calm conditions prevailed near dawn. Growers are preparing for temperatures near the same or colder Wednesday morning.