By Fernando Alferez and Mongi Zekri
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted another above-normal Atlantic hurricane season. While hurricanes have always been a risk or danger to Florida, their threat is growing. Although experts do not anticipate the historic level of storm activity seen in 2020, it only takes one storm to severely impact and devastate citrus groves. It is important to get prepared in advance and to stay ready during the whole hurricane season, from June through November. Some things to incorporate regularly in farm operations during these months include:
EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES
- Make a checklist of equipment and supplies for repairs that may be needed after the hurricane.
- Note supplies that take longer to deliver and order early to ensure they are available after a hurricane.
- Stockpile chemicals that are essential for your operation.
- Refresh emergency medical supplies, water, and dry and canned food supplies.
- Obtain enough plywood to protect windows and doors in the farm buildings. Store it in a dry area. As a hurricane gets closer, plywood may be scarce or unavailable.
- Contact equipment manufacturers to establish procedures for dealing with damaged equipment. Make sure you won’t invalidate your warranty if you attempt to do your own repairs.
- Consider fuel needs for tractors, generators and farm vehicles. Any fuel stored on site poses a contamination risk if storage tanks are not adequately protected from flooding, especially if stored at a low elevation. If secure storage facilities are available on site, arrange for fuel deliveries several days prior to the expected hurricane impact.
- Verify there is adequate fuel to power generators for at least two weeks.
WATCH THE WATER TABLE
Monitor the water table regularly to drain excess water as needed. A general rule of thumb is that 1 inch of rain will cause the water table to rise about 10 inches in fine-textured soils, 6 inches in most Flatwoods sandy soils and 4 inches in coarse sands. It may take four to six days for the water table to return to its desired levels following rains of 1 inch or more.
In South Florida, for example, Flatwoods soils have a restrictive layer within 30 to 48 inches of the soil surface that acts as a barrier to downward water movement and can perch the water table, significantly affecting tree water relations. To maximize production and tree health, the water table level should be monitored and maintained within an optimal zone. For more information on water table management, see the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension document Drainage Systems for Flatwoods Citrus in Florida.
Get updated and complete information on hurricane preparedness for citrus here.
Fernando Alferez is an assistant professor at the UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Extension Center in Immokalee. Mongi Zekri is the UF/IFAS Southwest Florida multi-county citrus agent in LaBelle.