When the next frost threatens Florida’s crops, growers will do their best to make sure your favorite foods are protected from the potentially crippling chill, say University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) experts.
For example, citrus growers use wind machines and microsprinklers to ensure freezing temperatures don’t ruin the fruit, said Chris Oswalt, a multi-county citrus Extension agent for UF/IFAS Extension in Polk and Hillsborough counties.
Wind machines, which increase grove temperatures, work best in windless freezes, Oswalt said. Under such conditions, air above the ground is warmer than it is at the surface.
Growers use wind machines in “cold pockets,” lower elevations of Florida’s ridge, where dense cold air drains on freezing nights. The “ridge” is an area in central Florida around U.S. 27, near Haines City and Lake Wales. Each wind machine protects about 10 acres, Oswalt said.
Growers most frequently use low-volume microsprinklers to protect from freezes, he said. When they do so, growers apply warm well water to plants, and the freezing of this water produces additional heat, thus protecting the plant.
“Currently, microsprinkler irrigation is the most widespread method of freeze protection used for Florida citrus,” Oswalt said. “This is a very efficient method that directs the right amount of water where it can provide the most freeze protection.”
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