Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Central Florida farmers assessing freeze damage

Some farmers think they dodged a bullet during this week's overnight freezing temperatures, but others fear a long-term threat to crops and groves.

"We had to stress our plants three nights in a row by icing them down," said Brooksville blueberry farmer George Casey. Like most farmers, Casey used sprinklers to ice the berries and protect them from the cold.

Casey estimates that he and other blueberry farmers in Hernando County each lost about 5 percent of their crops, which were more vulnerable to the cold because they were just starting to bloom.

But their main concern, he said, is long-term damage to the wood and roots from a disease or fungus resulting from three nights of watering.

"We dumped thousands and thousands of gallons of water on that field," he said. "Those roots aren't used to being that heavy. When the ice melted, it flooded the field."

Damage to local crops was not believed to be substantial, but growers and agriculture experts said it would be sometime next week before the full extent of any damage could be assessed.

Some citrus farmers were worried after an initial inspection of their groves turned up brown leaves and ice inside the fruit.

U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Bartow, will be at Lou Ross Citrus in Balm in south Hillsborough County Monday when officials announce a statewide damage assessment.

Depending on the damage, Putnam is prepared to ask President Obama and congressional leaders for disaster relief for Florida's farmers, said Keith Rupp, a Putnam spokesman.

"We do know we have damage," said Andrew Meadows, a spokesman for Florida Citrus Mutual, an association of growers. "We just don't know how much at this point."

Strawberry growers were a bit more optimistic on Friday.

"The damage is very minimal," said Gary Wishnatzki of Plant City's Wishnatzki Farms, a grower and sales agent representing 1,200 acres of strawberry fields in Central Florida.

All of the farmers were relieved about the weekend's forecast of highs in the 70s and lows in the upper 30s and 40s.

"I've been up three days," Casey, the Brooksville blueberry farmer, said Friday afternoon. "I'm tired."

Times staff writer Drew Harwell contributed to this report. Saundra Amrhein can be reached at or (813) 661-2441.

Central Florida farmers assessing freeze damage 01/23/09 [Last modified: Saturday, January 24, 2009 12:02am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally


    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  2. Kushner to testify before two intelligence committees


    WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to make a second appearance on Capitol Hill — he will speak with the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, one day after he is scheduled to speak with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators behind closed doors.

    White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. [Associated Press]
  3. Rays blow lead in ninth, lose in 10 to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash liked the way Alex Cobb was competing Friday night. He liked the way the hard contact made by the Rangers batters went away after the second or third inning. So as the game headed toward the ninth, there was no doubt in Cash's mind that sending Cobb back to the mound was …

    Rays starter Alex Cobb can hardly believe what just happened as he leaves the game in the ninth after allowing a leadoff double then a tying two-run homer to the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo.
  4. Exhumation of Dalí's remains finds his mustache still intact


    FIGUERES, Spain — Forensic experts in Spain have removed hair, nails and two long bones from Salvador Dalí's embalmed remains to aid a court-ordered paternity test that may enable a woman who says she is the surrealist artist's daughter to claim part of Dalí's vast estate.

    Salvador Dal? died in 1989 leaving vast estate.
  5. Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador, U.S. intelligence intercepts show


    WASHINGTON — Russia's ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, current and former U.S. …

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation after meetings with an ambassador were revealed.