Getting Ready for Cold Weather

Ernie Neffcold protection

cold weather
Make sure irrigation systems are properly maintained before cold weather occurs.

By Ray Royce

As we are now in November, growers should start to think about the prospect of the potentially adverse conditions that winter can bring. Do not get caught off guard by delaying your winter preparations. There are a few measures that growers can undertake to better prepare for cold weather, and now is a good time to start your planning.

Beginning with the basics, fuel tanks for irrigation pumps should be checked and maintained at levels which allow you to run them for at least several consecutive days. Bear in mind that the fuel companies will be scrambling to facilitate service to everyone at the same time if conditions deteriorate.

Where Microjet irrigation will be utilized for frost/freeze protection, the jets should be repositioned in order for water to be sprayed in a manner which will allow for ice to be formed in the crotch of trees 3 years or younger. Other jets should be checked thoroughly and rechecked throughout the winter. Proper placement and maintenance is essential for the effective use of a microsprinkler system as a cold-protection tool.

Other winter preparations or checklist items that should be undertaken at this time should include things such as:  

  • Banking or wrapping young trees
  • Checking thermometers for accuracy and that they are mounted correctly
  • Determining what your forecast tracking options are and at what temperatures you are going to initiate frost-protection action
  • Maintaining clean water filters at irrigation pumps
  • Making sure that you are prepared during the day for what might happen at night; checking the fuel, oil and water levels in pump motors  
  • Double-checking that all grove vehicles and employees are properly outfitted or equipped with the necessary clothing, parts, flashlights, necessary tools for cranking engines and maintaining irrigation systems on cold nights, jumper cables, extra irrigation parts, etc.  
  • Having working middles mowed or disked to enable adequate airflow on cold nights
  • Making sure that any lingering weed or grass presence within the tree row does not affect sprinkler coverage patterns
  • Making sure to turn off automatic timers to keep electric pumps from turning on after jets may be frozen in the case of a marginal freeze
  • Keeping in touch with various winter weather watch sources, such as Southeast AgNet, Florida Automated Weather Network, the Winter Weather Watch Program, the National Weather Service, the Highlands County Citrus Growers Association office, etc.
  • Having a cooperative temperature watch and notification plan with fellow growers.
  • Making sure that you record flow meter readings in advance of and after any cold-protection pumpage

Growers should consider developing a checklist of items to think about at the time of a potential freeze. With the reduced work force that most operations face nowadays, getting prepared early is important!

Ray Royce is executive director of the Highlands County Citrus Growers Association in Sebring, Florida.

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