For an even more recent update on the Florida freezes and new damage estimates for crops, see our Dec. 8 coverage: Freezes destroy Florida beans and corn.
(UPDATED COVERAGE, 12:25 p.m.) TAMPA, Fla. — Early reports have south Florida growers sustaining some damage from freezing temperatures that struck the growing regions during the early morning hours of Dec. 7.
Green beans flattened from a freeze in 2009. In early reports, Florida growers say a Dec. 7 freeze damaged some of its Lake Okeechobee bean and corn production.
Initial estimates have Belle Glade’s corn and green beans production suffering an undetermined amount of damage with the Immokalee vegetables area and central Florida’s strawberry growing region escaping major damage.
Tomato growers report no significant damage.
Though weather sites reported temperatures hitting the mid-30s in Belle Glade, growers report temperatures falling to as low as 24 degrees in their corn and green bean fields.
Randy Wilkinson, president of Belle Glade-based Wilkinson-Cooper Produce Inc., said it was 41 degrees when he arrived at his packinghouse at 6 a.m. on Dec. 7 and said he hears 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,” he said Dec. 7. “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.”
In southwest Florida, Gene McAvoy, a multi-county vegetable agent in Hendry County, said early reports show damage wasn’t severe for tomatoes and vegetables.
“So far, it’s not too bad,” he said. “It’s definitely nothing catastrophic like last year. There has been some foliage burns and tops of plants burned like on some eggplant, but it looks like we didn’t too badly.”
McAvoy said he heard some cucumbers suffered some damage, but cucumbers, which usually don’t fare well with cold weather, typically end south and central Florida production by early and mid-December.
Reggie Brown, manager of the Maitland-based Florida Tomato Committee and executive vice president of the Florida Tomato Exchange, said growers have told him tomatoes haven’t suffered significant damage.
“There is a little spotty damage around but certainly not enough to be overly concerned about,” he said Dec. 7. “Hopefully, we will have another night with no more damage than we had last night and will move on to next week’s weather event.”
Brown said forecasters are calling for an arctic front to bring another spell of cold weather to Florida the week of Dec. 13.
In central Florida, strawberry growers ran irrigation systems to protect their berries from freezing but didn’t sustain any damage in early estimates.
Larry Scarborough, a salesman with BBI Produce Inc., Dover, said running the sprinklers kept strawberry growers from suffering any significant damage and that a blowing wind helped keep temperatures from falling below 28 degrees.
“We watered for a couple of hours for some fields, but it was not as bad as we thought it would be,” he said.