Deep Freeze Ruins Floriculture, Nursery Crops

Effects of cold could linger for years

 

Freezing temperatures continue to crush San Diego County’s agricultural industry, say experts.

Portions of the county’s citrus crop could be lost for two years, and local avocado grove losses could be as much as $50 million already with no relief in sight. Several cut-flower nurseries said their plants may survive the frost, but the cold will delay their flowering until after Valentine’s Day, costing the industry millions of dollars in holiday sales. Some farms have workers standing idle as companies figure out whether they need them all or not for harvest.

But consumers shouldn’t worry about their Super Bowl guacamole. Avocado officials said plenty of fruit is available to keep price increases to a minimum.

Ed Shoemaker, a wax flower grower in Ramona, said all 20 acres of his crops are worthless because of the cold, the lowest temperatures he has seen since 1974. Wax flowers are flowering branches used in bouquets.

"There is no chance of recovering anything," he said. "It’s gone."

Nighttime temperatures are forecast to remain low, between 29 degrees and 39 degrees tonight and Friday night. On the weekend, night temperatures should remain above freezing.

Agricultural officials, farmers and nursery workers spent most of Wednesday out in fields and groves assessing damage. They estimated that 10 percent to 20 percent of the county’s avocado crop could be destroyed this year, and the effects could linger for two more years.

Officials said they wouldn’t know the extent of damage to avocados, citrus or flowers for a few days because damage from freezing can take time to appear.

The damage has been so extensive that state agriculture and emergency officials said it could lead to the county’s first cold-weather-related federal disaster area declaration in almost two decades.

Avocados were the county’s third-largest agricultural product last year, with sales of more than $251 million. Cut flowers were fifth with sales of more than $76 million. In 2005, agriculture contributed $1.5 billion to the local economy.

Eric Larson, executive director of the San Diego County Farm Bureau, said the total financial damage could be worse than the last frozen crop crisis in 1990.

"There has been lots of agricultural expansion," he said. "There could be more damage because people are possibly planting in places that are more susceptible to freezing."

In the winter of 1990-91, freezing temperatures destroyed $850 million worth of agriculture products throughout the state and eventually caused 32 counties, including Riverside and San Diego counties, to be declared federal disaster areas. California ranks second in the nation for federal disaster declarations with 71 since 1953, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Web site. Texas is No. 1 with 78.

When a region is declared a federal disaster area, federal funds and agencies can be tapped to help businesses affected by the disaster.

On Friday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared all of California to be in a state of emergency in anticipation of the extreme low temperatures. With early statewide crop loss estimates in the $1 billion range, state emergency relief officials said they wouldn’t be surprised to see San Diego County involved in another California federal disaster declaration soon.

"It is not uncommon," said Steve Lyle, director of public affairs for the California Department of Food and Agriculture. "The state doesn’t have the funding to provide the support that is required."

Tomatoes, oranges, strawberries and other crops managed to avoid any long-term damage from the cold. Agricultural officials said this wasn’t the growing season for tomatoes or the county’s Valencia oranges. The California Strawberry Commission said that while there has been some damage to crops in Southern California, the cold might actually stimulate growth in the long term. Strawberries tend to bounce back from cold easier than other types of fruit, agricultural officials said.

Citrus grove owners and nurseries with cut flowers and bedding plants were frantically trying everything, from extensive watering to covering plants with frost-protection cloth, to save crops from further damage.

Although water turns to ice in cold temperatures, it releases heat in the process. That heat can sometimes be enough to keep flowers and other plants from freezing. For fruit, watering could cover the fruit in a protective coating of ice, possibly allowing it to be harvested later.

Mike Mellano, senior vice president of Mellano & Co. in Oceanside, said his company has gone from watering flowers three to four hours per night to watering them for 12 hours. He said it is worth the extra watering cost to keep his flowers alive.

"The value of the crop exceeds the cost of the water," he said.

The losses could get even worse for the county’s agriculture. Avocado officials said the fruit has trouble in temperatures lower than 30 degrees. The National Weather Service’s Forecast Office in Rancho Bernardo said nightly temperatures should be below that until the weekend. The weather could spell bad news for nurseries and citrus groves as well.

Scott Lenz, owner of S&R Flowers in Fallbrook, said he has lost three crops of flowers because of the cold. But he said somehow he will continue to grow flowers.

"I have no idea why I’m in this business," he said. "I must like pain."

(Source: Patrick Wright, North County Times)

Leave a Reply

More From ...

March 4, 2015

Nexus Corporation’s Cheryl Longtin Encourages Women To Seek Volunteer Leadership Opportunities

When Cheryl Longtin came to the horticulture business in 1994, she applied her experience in the automotive industry to promote the adoption of more technology in greenhouse production. Longtin says horticulture, with its rich family tradition, has long promoted women in the industry compared to other industries, but women in horticulture must continue to seek out opportunities to provide volunteer leadership in organizations that shape the future of the business.

Read More

March 4, 2015

Second Annual GreenhouseConnect Will Bring Growers and Suppliers Together in San Diego This October

Following a successful inaugural event in Tampa last fall, Greenhouse Grower has announced the dates of its second annual GreenhouseConnect: October 26-29, 2015. Representatives of an expected two dozen leading greenhouse operations from across the U.S. will join senior-level suppliers at Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego for several days of one-on-one strategic meetings, a growers-only roundtable, informational sessions and a variety of networking events.

Read More
cultivate'15 logo

March 4, 2015

Cultivate’15: AmericanHort Announces What’s New

In an industry that has seen major changes occurring at a fast pace, many industry professionals leave Cultivate with their heads spinning and no clear idea of how to regroup and strategize. Cultivate’15 is “Changing the Game.” As this year’s focus, Changing the Game will call your attention to the ways in which our industry has changed and your opportunities to compete successfully.

Read More
Latest Stories

March 4, 2015

Nexus Corporation’s Cheryl Longtin Encourages Wom…

When Cheryl Longtin came to the horticulture business in 1994, she applied her experience in the automotive industry to promote the adoption of more technology in greenhouse production. Longtin says horticulture, with its rich family tradition, has long promoted women in the industry compared to other industries, but women in horticulture must continue to seek out opportunities to provide volunteer leadership in organizations that shape the future of the business.

Read More

March 4, 2015

Second Annual GreenhouseConnect Will Bring Growers and …

Following a successful inaugural event in Tampa last fall, Greenhouse Grower has announced the dates of its second annual GreenhouseConnect: October 26-29, 2015. Representatives of an expected two dozen leading greenhouse operations from across the U.S. will join senior-level suppliers at Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego for several days of one-on-one strategic meetings, a growers-only roundtable, informational sessions and a variety of networking events.

Read More
cultivate'15 logo

March 4, 2015

Cultivate’15: AmericanHort Announces What’s…

In an industry that has seen major changes occurring at a fast pace, many industry professionals leave Cultivate with their heads spinning and no clear idea of how to regroup and strategize. Cultivate’15 is “Changing the Game.” As this year’s focus, Changing the Game will call your attention to the ways in which our industry has changed and your opportunities to compete successfully.

Read More

March 4, 2015

California Spring Trials Preview: 32 New Perennials For…

Perennials are hot and if this preview of the 2015 California Spring Trials is any indication, there are going to be some great new perennial introductions for 2016. We contacted the breeders who will be displaying their new varieties in California in April, and they gave us a sneak peek. Check out the slideshow to see some of the new perennials making their debut to the trade this spring.

Read More

March 4, 2015

Maryland Green Industry Associations Unite

The Maryland Nursery and Landscape Association recently announced that it is expanding its reach to include the greenhouse industry, meaning it has become The Maryland Nursery, Landscape and Greenhouse Association (MNLGA). The change comes as a result of the planned dissolution of the former Maryland Greenhouse Growers Association and the invitation for those members to join the existing and renamed association.

Read More
american-hort-logo

March 4, 2015

H-2B Cap Hit, Adding to Visa Program Woes

The H-2B visa cap for the first half of fiscal 2015 was hit late in January. As a result, some growers may not have access to the H-2B workers they need during the months ahead. The visa cap and resulting labor shortages will have impacts throughout the horticulture industry.

Read More
Laura Drotleff

March 4, 2015

Celebrate Women In Horticulture

Women have always played a crucial role in the horticulture industry, not only from a consumer point-of-view, where traditionally our biggest customers have been women, but also as prominent business leaders and owners, growers, breeders, marketers, researchers and matriarchs of industry family empires.

Read More
Lavandula 'Meerlo' (Sunset Western Garden Collection)

March 3, 2015

Why You Will Still Grow Today’s Big Perennial 10 Years …

What will be the next big perennial? Breeders say it takes more than a splashy plant to distinguish itself in the market. Therefore, the question is not what will be the next big perennial, but rather what perennial performs well enough in the garden to have staying power in the market for years to come.

Read More

March 2, 2015

Avoid Surprises On The Delivery Dock

A call in advance about problems with a plant shipment to a retailer you supply goes a long way toward customer satisfaction.

Read More
Janeen Wright

March 2, 2015

Deliver Plant Quality That Trumps Price [Opinion]

The industry's goal is to have loyal customers who return to the same plants time and time again, not because of price, but owing to a plant brand that shouts top-notch garden performance and is synonymous with excellence, which gives them the secure knowledge that their investment will be worth every hard-earned cent.

Read More
Heuch Pink Fizz_featured

March 2, 2015

Intergeneric Crosses Are A New Perennial Trend

Intergeneric crosses, oddities some botanists say are an impossibility, have made serious inroads in the perennial world.

Read More
Harvest Automation - HV-100

March 2, 2015

Robots Grab Hold Of Growers’ Material Handling Needs

Harvest Automation’s HV-100 robots automate one of the hardest, most labor-intensive jobs at growing operations – plant spacing. With more technology coming, investing in robots could become even more realistic for growers of all sizes.

Read More
Smart Herb Garden

March 2, 2015

Smartpot Uses Sensors And Cartridges To Ensure Success …

Click & Grow helps make it simple for consumers to grow their own herbs and spices at home, even if they have little experience with plants.

Read More

March 2, 2015

Student Flash Mob At TPIE Has Roots In Floriculture

The local FFA students who entertained TPIE attendees in 2014 and 2015 received industry donations of plants and a greenhouse structure to help expand their horticultural program.

Read More
Rose Rosette on Knockout rose, May 2013. Photo credit: Alan Windham, University of Tennessee

March 2, 2015

Rose Rosette Disease Fight Gets A Boost From Government…

In 2014, $4.6 million was awarded through the Farm Bill to tackle rose rosette disease, a devastating pathogen that affects one of the industry’s most important crops.

Read More
Fig 1 Leafy Gall On Leucanthemum Becky

March 2, 2015

How To Prevent Leafy Gall Before You Lose Plants

Leafy gall is a nasty disease that can go undetected until plant damage is done. Take these steps to protect your crops from infection.

Read More
Gaillardia x grandiflora 'Arizona Apricot'

February 25, 2015

National Garden Bureau Designates 2015 As Year Of The G…

Gaillardia, also known as the blanket flower, is a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae) and a long-blooming pollinator plant. It is fitting that the National Garden Bureau has specified 2015 as The Year of the Gaillardia.

Read More
IPPS Sharing Plant Production Knowledge Globally Logo

February 25, 2015

International Plant Propagators Western Region Sets Ann…

The annual meet for the International Plant Propagators' Society (IPPS) Western Region has been set for this September. It will take place September 23 to 26 in Modesto, Calif., and will include learning sessions, tours to local nurseries, a research poster display and poster presentations, various networking opportunities and an awards banquet to close the event.

Read More