With the recent late-winter freeze event that sacked fruit crops aplenty around the Southeast, it appears most Florida growers dodged a bullet.
According to Dudley Calfee, President of the Florida Blueberry Growers Association, reports from the field have indicated very minimal damage from the freeze. “Our hearts go out to our brother growers up north,” he says. “Mother nature can be quite cruel at times in agriculture.”
Dudley’s statement is one Florida growers themselves know all too well with memories of recent freezes not forgotten and scars from Hurricane Matthew still fresh less than six months after the storm.
Significant losses to the blueberry crop in Georgia will mean a longer picking season for growers in the Sunshine State, Calfee says.“We could be picking profitably into early May, if we can keep our labor here.”
Unfortunately, not all Florida crops escaped damage from the St. Patrick’s Day Eve freeze. Gary K. England, Director of the UF/IFAS Agricultural Extension Center in Hastings, says temperatures in the area dipped as low as 27°F for several hours.
While freeze protection practices saved the Center’s blueberry and peach plots, taking a ride around St. Johns County – Hastings and Elkton in particular — revealed acres of potato crops that suffered the burn.
Growers in the area are still assessing the damage. For those that didn’t cover their crops, re-planting will be likely.