Overnight freeze again but crop damage already done

Pedro Abendano, a worker at Ranch One Co-Operative in Immokalee, Fla. picks tangerines off trees affected by freezing temperatures on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010. Overnight temperatures dipped into the mid-20s inland and Mike Jones, harvesting manager for the farm, said there was some damage from the cold, but it was too early to tell how extensive it was. In the meantime, citrus harvesting increased at the 2,400 acre property to combat potentially damaged trees. Greg Kahn/Staff

Photo by GREG KAHN

Pedro Abendano, a worker at Ranch One Co-Operative in Immokalee, Fla. picks tangerines off trees affected by freezing temperatures on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010. Overnight temperatures dipped into the mid-20s inland and Mike Jones, harvesting manager for the farm, said there was some damage from the cold, but it was too early to tell how extensive it was. In the meantime, citrus harvesting increased at the 2,400 acre property to combat potentially damaged trees. Greg Kahn/Staff

Temperatures dipped below freezing again this morning in some parts of inland Collier County and South Florida, where vegetable and citrus growers are reeling from Wednesday morning’s deep freeze.

It certainly didn’t help the crops that are suffering from freeze damage Wednesday morning, said Gene McAvoy, a multi-county vegetable agent with the University of Florida/IFAS.

“Most of the damage was done,” McAvoy said. “Some may have gotten a little more damage, but some of them were already dead.”

Farmers have reported major vegetable damage during this week’s rare December freeze. It will take days before farms can tell how much damage was done.

Initial reports show that damage may not be as bad as last January’s freezes, which damaged or killed an estimated $250 million in produce.

“I wouldn’t be surprised in South Florida if we don’t still rack up $100,000 in losses,” he said. “It’s big.”

Fortunately, growers can expect warmer temperatures in the immediate future. According to the National Weather Service seven-day forecast, temperatures are not expected to drop below 50 degrees.

However, that may be little consolation for growers with damaged plants.

McAvoy said it would take weeks of mild weather to restore the plants that weren’t completely killed off by the freeze.

“Even then,” he said. “They will never produce at their full potential.”

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