Winter Weather Watch Program for Growers

Ernie NeffWeather

Chris Oswalt

Multi-county citrus Extension agent Chris Oswalt describes the Winter Weather Watch available to growers in the west, central and southwest regions of Florida. The program runs from Nov. 15 to March 15 and costs growers $100. 

Oswalt says the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) established the program in the 1960s to provide agricultural forecasts via telephone. He says the recorded forecasts are aimed at “the ag, outlying rural areas, where those forecasts are more applicable to growers.”

Growers calling for geographical zone forecasts receive “the basic information about what is occurring inasmuch as weather the next day or two,” Oswalt says. “And I put those out every day for those four months. Growers can call in and get that information. We provide educational materials that help them interpret the forecast … and then that information they can use to better protect their crops from freezing temperatures.”

“We have a meteorologist … that consults with us and helps us with our forecasts,” Oswalt adds.

Oswalt says many growers use Winter Weather Watch in conjunction with localized information from the Florida Automated Weather Network. “We’re really partners in this (weather information), so to speak,” he says.

The number of Winter Weather Watch subscribers varies from 20 to up to 75 in some years, Oswalt says. Growers interested in joining the program can contact his office in Bartow at (863) 519-1052.

“Don’t forget to keep an eye on the weather this winter,” Oswalt concludes. Florida had several freezes in the 1980s that damaged wide swaths of Florida’s citrus belt. There have been a few lesser freezes since 1989, but none that have inflicted the amount of damage growers experienced in the 1980s.   

This interview with Oswalt is included in the current episode of the All In For Citrus podcast, a joint project of UF/IFAS and AgNet Media. Listen to the full podcast here.

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About the Author

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large