The 2019 hurricane season is well underway. Florida’s citrus industry hasn’t been threatened yet, but several months of the season remain.
Multi-county citrus Extension agent Chris Oswalt suggests that growers be prepared for the possibility of a hurricane. “Have a plan; work that plan,” he says.
Oswalt offers several ways growers can be prepared for a severe storm. “If you have any material/pesticide storage facilities, ensure that they are secure and that your materials are secure within those buildings,” he suggests.
“Keep tabs on where your people are,” Oswalt adds, explaining that employees are the ones who can get to groves expeditiously to remove excess water that can kill trees. He suggests growers who use diesel pumps for removing water ensure the pumps have plenty of fuel.
“I would … very strongly suggest that you have a set of standard operating procedures,” possibly in the form of a checklist, that prioritizes actions to be taken in case of a hurricane, Oswalt says.
He also suggests emptying fertigation tanks. Removing the fertilizer from the tanks might prevent an accidental fertilizer spill, Oswalt explains. The tanks might even be filled with water “as a way to keep them weighted down so they don’t become projectiles during a hurricane.”
Having a record of prior production in groves hit by hurricanes can help growers when they file for crop or tree insurance or special government assistance programs, Oswalt notes. He says those records let growers “accurately portray what was lost” in a hurricane or freeze.
Florida’s commercial citrus groves were hurt badly by multiple hurricanes in 2004 and 2005, and again by Hurricane Irma in September 2017.
Hear more from Oswalt:
Read additional hurricane preparation and recovery advice here.
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