(UPDATED COVERAGE, Nov. 10) Tropical Depression Ida may not be a threat to northern Florida tomato production, but south Florida grower-shippers say winds from the storm — which has been downgraded from a tropical storm — have further harmed central Florida’s tomato deal.
The storm — which made landfall southeast of Mobile, Ala., on Nov. 10 — is forecast to slowly roll through the Quincy, Fla., growing region and most of northern Florida and parts of southern Georgia during the overnight hours of Nov. 10-11.
Tony DiMare, vice president of the DiMare Co., Homestead, Fla., said high winds associated with the storm, which rolled through the Gulf of Mexico along Florida’s Gulf Coast Nov. 6-9, damaged late plantings in the Palmetto-Ruskin growing region.
“There is bloom loss due to the excessive winds over the last three days,” DiMare said Nov. 10. “It has been one thing after another for this fall season.”
DiMare estimates central Florida fall tomato volume is down 40% to 50% from normal.
Combined with bloom drop after severe fall heat, DiMare estimates central Florida should produce lighter volume through mid- to late December.
The Quincy growing region, which serves as a transition area from summer and early fall deals to Florida’s fall and winter tomato deals, is wrapping up pickings, which should end by Nov. 23, said Billy Don Grant, co-owner and salesman for the Quincy-based Gadsden Tomato Co. Inc., Quincy Tomato Corp., and High Hope Farms.
“The storm shouldn’t hurt us,” he said Nov. 10. “We had 12-15 mph winds last night, while the Naples, Immokalee and Palmetto-Ruskin regions got 25 mph winds over the weekend with sunshine, so 15 mph won’t mean anything. It won’t mean anything. We’re all used to water over here.”
Unlike south Florida, northern Florida and southern Georgia growers grow their tomatoes on sloping ground, which facilitates for fast water runoff, like a roof on the house, Grant said.
Ida was expected to bring 35 mph winds with 3-8 inches of rain as it moves northeast across Florida’s panhandle.
In Georgia, harvests of greens, squash and other vegetables are close enough to winding down that any Ida-related rain wouldn’t put much of a dent in volumes, said Beth Bland, program coordinator for the Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association, La Grange.
For more information on the storm, visit the NOAA storm page.
Additional reporting from Andy Nelson.