Although early assessment attempts were limited by cell phone and internet outages, Hurricane Ian likely caused extensive citrus fruit loss as it tore through Florida Sept. 28–29. The catastrophic hurricane churned through the Gulf and Peace River Valley citrus regions, then headed northeast to impact Highlands and southern Polk counties and the Indian River citrus region.
Ray Royce of the Highlands County Citrus Growers Association reported on Sept. 30 that several local growers told him fruit drop ranged from 40% to 70% and was worse in southern Highlands. Those growers also reported a “small degree of trees uprooted and broken,” he said. Royce emphasized that in previous storms, more stress and damage showed up several days or weeks later.
“I can tell you Charlotte and Lee counties were hit very hard,” said Steve Smith of the Gulf Citrus Growers Association. “Hendry and Collier came through better but with fruit on the ground.”
“We got hit directly in Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee and Hardee counties,” added Peace River Valley Citrus Growers Association’s Emma Keller. She was waiting to hear more information from growers.
The Indian River Citrus League’s Doug Bournique reported “mainly light damage due to the lesser winds on the east coast. Exposed rows were hit, but windbreaks helped. We will know more in a few weeks.”
Rick Dantzler of the Citrus Research and Development Foundation told Citrus Industry Editor Tacy Callies that everybody lost some fruit, but losses varied by area. He reported groves were flooded in southern parts of the Florida citrus belt and that water in groves will be a bigger issue than fruit loss. Standing water for extended periods damages citrus tree roots.
Further north, Orange County grower Chip Henry of Apopka and Lake County grower Sonny Conner of Lake Jem told Callies their groves look good after the storm. Henry said his fruit is still on the trees and his grove does not appear to have any damage. Conner said his grove looks “great.” He said he almost sold his fruit just before the storm but is glad he didn’t because he expects prices to rise.
RESPONSES TO DAMAGE SURVEYS NEEDED
Florida Citrus Mutual’s Matt Joyner asked the association’s statewide members and others to complete a survey regarding the damage experienced in their groves.
The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is also encouraging growers to participate in a survey of agricultural damages from Hurricane Ian. Find it here.
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