Strawberry slowdown only temporary after Florida freeze

24 Jan , 2018 Dennis M. Rettke // http://www.freshplaza.com
Florida experienced another wave of cold weather late last week, with temperatures dropping once again below freezing. In Tampa, temperatures dropped as low as 29 degrees on Thursday morning along with windy conditions. Growers in the surrounding regions are focused on strawberry production at this time of year, and the cold weather prompted them to initiate protective measures.

"The freezing weather only caused slight damage to the strawberries," said Matt Sumner, of Always Fresh Farms in Winter Haven, around 50 miles east of Tampa. "We ran the overhead irrigation to prevent the crop from freezing. However, it was also windy and this caused the effectiveness of the irrigation to be quite spotty. Therefore, we did experience a bit of damage to the bloom and the fruit itself, but it will take a few more days to accurately assess."

Supplies to recover by middle of this week
Suppliers expect that the effect on production will be minimal, with supplies quickly rebounding. "It will only bring a temporary slowdown to production and we expect volume to rebound by the middle of this week," Sumner said. "Strawberries have an optimal range of temperatures. If they are exceeded, it puts stress on the crop and they go into a dormant phase, which is what happened."

Warmer temperatures are forecast to return and this is giving growers hope that the frost damage was brief and not detrimental on overall production. "We're very optimistic that production will be back to normal very quickly," Sumner added. "The weekend already brought warmer temperatures and we are looking at day time highs in the mid 70s this week. This will warm up the beds again and the strawberries are expected to fully recover."

Other crops not affected
A number of other crops grown in the area, notably cabbage, lettuce, broccoli and other winter vegetables, were unaffected. Other, less cold-hardy products, are primarily grown in the south of the state at this time of year, and temperatures there were not excessively cold.
   "We grow mainly berries up near Tampa," said a spokesperson from Harrison Farms. "Production will slow down a bit, but there has been no lasting damage. Further south we grow bell peppers and squash and these were unaffected."

Temperatures in the Central Florida area are forecast to remain in the 70s this week, with lows ranging from the mid 50s to low 60s.