Freeze hits Florida corn, green bean crops

02/19/2007 02:00:00 AM

By Doug Ohlemeier for The Packer

A series of freezes Feb. 17-19 harmed Florida sweet corn and green bean production.

Florida strawberry grower-shippers, however, say they survived another cold snap that brought subfreezing temperatures to central Florida growing regions.

The weekend freezes damaged green beans and sweet corn overnight in Belle Glade, Fla., and Homestead, Fla., said Brett Bergmann, co-owner of Hugh H. Branch Inc., Pahokee, Fla.

"There's damage, but the extent of which we don't know," he said Feb. 19.

Growers were surveying their corn and green beans that morning.

In Belle Glade, the temperatures ranged between 28 degrees and 32 degrees on Feb. 17 and 32 degrees and 34 degrees on Feb. 19, said Gene Duff, executive vice president and general manager of Pioneer Growers Co-op, Belle Glade.

"It has been cold the last couple of weeks," Duff said. "A lot of that corn wasn't up yet. The younger the corn was, the better it fared. It's not a complete loss, but we will have some loss."

Duff said damages might exceed the minimal damage suffered by Lake Okeechobee area sweet corn and green beans during a Jan. 30 freeze.

Damage would likely exceed 10 percent of the corn crop, he said.

Bergmann said it could take a week to a couple of weeks to know for sure how much corn got hurt.

Plant City strawberry growers ran water over their crops throughout the weekend when temperatures fell to 27 degrees during the early morning hours of Feb. 17.

Chris Smith, sales manager for BBI Produce Inc., Dover, said the cold snap caused little damage to the strawberries.

"It didn't make a lot of ice," he said, speaking of the ice domes that form over the berry plants from water sprays that keep temperatures above 32 degrees. "There shouldn't be any major problems. There were very small losses. It's more of a time delay."

Most of the ice that formed Feb. 17 melted by 8:30 a.m. that morning, Smith said.

The upper 20s temperatures didn't harm Florida's citrus, said Mike Sparks, executive vice president and chief executive officer of Lakeland-based Florida Citrus Mutual.

Like others, Sparks said growers could take up to two weeks to fully understand how much the frost damaged citrus groves.



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