Florida Blueberry Crop Escapes Slap from Late-Season Cold Snap

Freeze protected blueberry bushes in Florida
Grower Chuck Allison of Spring Valley Farms near Umatilla, FL, says his blueberry crop survived the latest freeze event that devastated crops in Georgia.
Photo by Chuck Allison

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.

Closeup of Florida blueberries
A week following a hard freeze event, the fruit in the plot of blueberries planted at the UF/IFAS Agricultural Extension Center in Downtown Hastings survived thanks to diligent cold protection.
Photo by Paul Rusnak

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.

Freeze-damaged potato field in Florida
This potato field near Molasses Junction outside of Hastings took a hit from the hard freeze event.
Photo by Paul Rusnak

Growers in the area are still assessing the damage. For those that didn’t cover their crops, re-planting will be likely.

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