PLANT CITY — Some strawberry farmers in East Hillsborough turned on their sprinklers Thursday morning to coat berries in the field with a protective layer of ice and they’re expecting to do the same the next two nights.
"I have talked to a number of growers, and we’re getting reports that it was a routine freeze and frost protection event and there was no damage,’’ said Kenneth Parker, executive director of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association.
The sprinklers went on at the growers association research field when temperatures dipped to 26 to 30 degrees after midnight, Parker said. Cold can help sweeten the berries.
"The crop looks great," he said.
Some farmers, up all night watching over their crops, were sleeping until midday Thursday.
Growers for Wish Farms in Plant City are among those who ran water before dawn Thursday and are expecting to have to do it again tonight, said Amber Maloney, marketing director for the company.
The same wind that has driven a chill into people across Tampa Bay helped distribute the water efficiently, and the ice melted about 8:30 a.m., leaving the crops undamaged, Maloney said.
The lowest temperatures Wish’s growers measured was 28 degrees. Tonight is expected to be the same or a little cooler, she said.
"It’s nothing we can’t handle."