Citrus growers and other agriculturists can use the Florida Automated Weather Network’s (FAWN) Cold Protection Toolkit to make decisions when using irrigation for cold protection. FAWN Project Manager Rick Lusher provides an overview of what he calls the toolkit’s “step-by-step guide.”
“You can look at a four-day forecast from the National Weather Service, and then you can go down to evaluating individual cold events,” Lusher says. On a cold night, a grower can find an estimated minimum temperature at any of FAWN’s 42 stations around Florida. Growers can then use a forecast tracker to evaluate the forecast in real time. “You can compare the forecasted temperature to the actual temperature at one of our stations as a cold night is progressing to see how likely is it that the actual temperature will reach the forecasted temperature, or if it even might go below that value,” he says.
Another tool in the toolkit lets growers determine how likely it is that evaporative cooling might occur when using irrigation. Evaporative cooling can drive temperatures even lower than the ambient, or surrounding, air temperature.
Finally, growers can utilize a tool that lets them determine when they can shut off irrigation “without risking any further damage,” Lusher says.
Lusher also discusses My Florida Farm Weather, a cost-share program funded by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services that helps growers install weather stations on their own property. FAWN collects and disseminates data from those approximately 180 stations. The program gives growers more localized information than is available just from the FAWN stations.
Lusher provided a FAWN update at a recent “OJ Break” event in Bartow, hosted by multi-county citrus Extension agent Chris Oswalt.
Florida hasn’t had a widespread tree-killing citrus freeze in years. However, a damaging freeze is always a possibility at this time of year.
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