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 ...
Hendriks-Half-Open-Roof_GGS

March 26, 2015

10 Greenhouse Products For First-Rate Growing Environments

From coverings to fork-lifts, greenhouse suppliers offer a variety of products to make growing easier. Check out the slideshow to learn more about these, plus several other products that can offer you value, versatility and durability.

Read More
Rose rosette on Knockout rose, April 2012. Photo credit: Alan Windham, University of Tennessee

March 25, 2015

$58 Million In APHIS Farm Bill Funding Will Support Horticulture Priorities

Nearly $58 million as been allocated by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to support the industry's Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program, under Farm Bill Section 10007. The program will support mitigation efforts for specialty crops, including providing research and other funding to address plant pest and disease priorities for the specialty crop industry, including floriculture and nursery crops.

Read More
AFE scholarship_Ryan Dickson

March 25, 2015

AFE Educational Grant And Scholarship Application Deadlines Approaching

Apply now for American Floral Endowment (AFE) scholarships or educational grants. Applications can be found online. For educational grants for 2015-2016, applications must be submitted no later than June 1. Scholarship applications are due May 1. AFE will award $40,000 in scholarships for 2015.

Read More
Latest Stories
Hendriks-Half-Open-Roof_GGS

March 26, 2015

10 Greenhouse Products For First-Rate Growing Environme…

From coverings to fork-lifts, greenhouse suppliers offer a variety of products to make growing easier. Check out the slideshow to learn more about these, plus several other products that can offer you value, versatility and durability.

Read More
Rose rosette on Knockout rose, April 2012. Photo credit: Alan Windham, University of Tennessee

March 25, 2015

$58 Million In APHIS Farm Bill Funding Will Support Hor…

Nearly $58 million as been allocated by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to support the industry's Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program, under Farm Bill Section 10007. The program will support mitigation efforts for specialty crops, including providing research and other funding to address plant pest and disease priorities for the specialty crop industry, including floriculture and nursery crops.

Read More
AFE scholarship_Ryan Dickson

March 25, 2015

AFE Educational Grant And Scholarship Application Deadl…

Apply now for American Floral Endowment (AFE) scholarships or educational grants. Applications can be found online. For educational grants for 2015-2016, applications must be submitted no later than June 1. Scholarship applications are due May 1. AFE will award $40,000 in scholarships for 2015.

Read More

March 25, 2015

13 New Shrubs You’ll Find At The 2015 California …

Woody ornamentals serve as the foundation of many great landscapes, but beyond their traditional uses, shrubs also add color, structure, texture and interest to small gardens and even containers. Check out this slideshow to see some of the newest introductions you’ll get to see at this year’s California Spring Trials.

Read More

March 25, 2015

NASS Reports U.S. Honey Production Was Up By 19 Percent…

Honey production in 2014 from producers with five or more colonies totaled 178 million pounds, up 19 percent from 2013, according to a March 20 report from the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

Read More
Bloomtown_Screen Shot 2015-03-10

March 24, 2015

Bloomtown Exposes Consumers To The World Of Horticultur…

A new web series called Bloomtown is all about the mud, sweat and tears of horticulture. Filmed in St. Louis, Mo., it chronicles the world of horticulture using local flower growers, greenhouses, wholesalers, florists, consumers, retail shops and arborists, with the goal of opening consumers’ eyes to the world of horticulture around them.

Read More
OxiPhos_BioSafe2

March 23, 2015

BioSafe Makes Label Changes To OxiPhos And ZeroTol 2.0

There have been some recent label changes made to the BioSafe Systems product OxiPhos, a systemic bactericide/fungicide that reduces downy mildew spores when tank mixed with ZeroTol 2.0.

Read More

March 23, 2015

UF/IFAS Appoints Joseph Albano As Director Of Mid-Flori…

The University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) has a new directors for its Mid-Florida Research and Education Center (REC) on Apopka, Fla. The role has been filled by Joseph Albano, a research horticulturist from the U.S. Department of Agriculture with more than 25 years of experience.

Read More
Nufarm_logo

March 23, 2015

Nufarm Fungicides Now Registered For Use On Edible Crop…

Nufarm Americas announced label expansions for two of its fungicides that will provide more pest management options for the ornamental industry. The Cleary 3336 F and EG fungicides are now registered for use across a wider range of edible crops, including select greenhouse vegetables and transplants, herbs and backyard fruit.

Read More

March 23, 2015

Update To Armitage’s Greatest Perennials & Annuals …

A new update to the Greatest Perennials & Annuals app narrows the gap between consumers and grower-retailers, while providing more of Armitage’s top picks and growing advice for success with plants.

Read More
Plantbid website screenshot

March 20, 2015

Plantbid Brings Open Sourcing To Greenhouse Growers

Plantbid bridges the gap between buyers and sellers for sales and marketing networking on their own terms. The web-based, plant-sourcing platform aims to save growers time and make the business of buying and selling plants more efficient.

Read More
National Floriculture Forum 2015 029

March 18, 2015

2015 National Floriculture Forum Focuses On Marketing I…

The 2015 National Floriculture Forum, held March 6 to 7 in Minneapolis, Minn., zeroed in on the topic of marketing in horticulture and included visits to Gertens Greenhouses and Garden Center, Bailey Nurseries, Bachman’s Floral, Home and Garden and Tangletown Gardens. The annual meeting allows greenhouse and floriculture faculty, graduate students and industry partners to meet and share updates on current research, issues and initiatives.

Read More

March 18, 2015

H-2B Situation Goes From Bad To Even Worse

On March 5, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced that it will no longer accept or process H-2B labor certifications or requests for H-2B prevailing wage determinations in light of a March 4 decision. Shortly after the DOL announcement, the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Citizenship and Immigration Services followed suit, announcing it will at least temporarily cease approving visa petitions. These announcements essentially shut down the H-2B program for any company that has not completed the DHS H-2B visa petitioning process.

Read More
SAF CAD

March 18, 2015

Growers Ask For Immigration And Healthcare Reform Durin…

Nearly 90 growers, retailers, suppliers and wholesales attended the Society of American Florists' (SAF) 2015 Congressional Action Days March 9-10. The delegation, representing 18 states, arrived on Capitol Hill at a time when two major industry issues - immigration and healthcare reform - are especially prominent in national headlines.

Read More
2014 Poinsettia Season Report

March 18, 2015

Download Greenhouse Grower’s 2014 Poinsettia Seas…

Poinsettia growers report a strong year in 2014, thanks to a few conditions. Seasonal cold at just the right time put consumers in a festive mood to buy early and often, and with no big snowstorms to hold up shipments and a reduction of supply available in the market, the season was strong from start to finish. Greenhouse Grower’s 2014 Poinsettia Survey received 143 responses from growers around the country. Here, you can download the complete results of the survey, by filling out the form.

Read More

March 17, 2015

Pike Nurseries Implements Employee Stock Ownership Plan

Independent garden retailer Pike Nurseries has announced it will become an employee-owned company. Pike Nurseries management has combined with its sister corporation in California, Armstrong Garden Centers, to operate under an established Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).

Read More
Hydrangea 'Endless Summer BloomStruck' from Bailey Nurseries

March 17, 2015

Michael Dirr Slated To Address Attendees At Hydrangeas …

Dr. Michael Dirr to deliver the keynote address at Hydrangeas 2015 conference, hosted by the Cape Cod Hydrangea Society in partnership with Endless Summer Hydrangeas. The conference will take place at the historic Heritage Museums and Gardens in Sandwich, Mass.

Read More
Bee on a Sedum

March 17, 2015

4 Key Pollinator Research Projects To Be Funded By Hort…

The Horticultural Research Institute will grant $125,000 in financial support for four key projects as part of the Horticultural Industry Bee & Pollinator Stewardship Initiative. The Initiative has three primary goals. First, to convene a task force to develop a bee and pollinator stewardship program, including creation of best management practices for plant production. Second, to identify and fund research that will help answer key science questions and fill gaps needed to design and refine the stewardship program. Third, to seek to positively position the horticultural community and its customers by collaborating with other compatible groups interested in augmenting pollinator habitat and protection.

Read More