Cold Protection: The Tried and the New

Ernie Neffcold protection

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Tried and proven cold protection techniques and changes to the Florida Automated Weather Network (FAWN) were discussed in a virtual Nov. 17 winter weather program.

Chris Oswalt, citrus Extension agent for Hillsborough and Polk counties, summarized the decades-old cold protection techniques still practiced by Florida citrus growers. One of the first steps in cold protection is being prepared by staying tuned to weather forecasts during the cold season. Whether growers get their forecasts directly from private forecasters, the Weather Channel or local news stations, the data used to generate the forecasts all comes from the National Weather Service, Oswalt said.

When a freeze is imminent or occurring, most Florida citrus growers rely on low-volume microsprinkler irrigation to provide cold protection for trees. Oswalt suggested that the sprinkler emitters be within 3 feet of the tree trunk, on the north or northwest side of the tree. He discussed much of the science and techniques for using microsprinklers safely and effectively for cold protection.

FAWN Project Manager Rick Lusher focused on recent changes that might make it easier for growers to use FAWN to obtain information helpful in implementing cold protection. FAWN is a network of 42 weather stations created in 1997 to assist growers with irrigation, freeze protection and chemical application.

Lusher explained that growers can now hover their cursor over one of the weather stations depicted on the FAWN webpage map to get the air temperature, wind speed, rainfall and humidity at that site. Growers can use FAWN to obtain projected overnight minimum temperatures for specific sites and to track how the forecast compares to what is happening in real time. They can also use FAWN to determine the risk of evaporative cooling while using irrigation and to learn when it is safe to turn off irrigation systems after a cold event.

Future changes to FAWN include the addition of soil moisture sensors to stations and the installation of numerous new stations around the state.

Oswalt and Lusher’s program was hosted by multi-county citrus Extension agent Mongi Zekri.

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About the Author

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large