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

Latest Stories
BrightFarms Ohio

October 18, 2017

Leafy Greens Grower BrightFarms Building New 120,000 Sq…

The operation will provide locally grown salad greens and herbs to supermarkets in the Cincinnati, Dayton, and Columbus, OH, metropolitan areas.

Read More
Rough Brothers HopsHouse

October 18, 2017

New Greenhouse Aimed at Hydroponic Hops Producers

The new greenhouse model is the first single-solution hydroponic greenhouse for year-round hops growth, and harvests anywhere from two to five times a year.

Read More
Petal It Forward 2017

October 17, 2017

Petal It Forward Event a Hit for Both Industry Members …

Check out how this year’s Petal It Forward event brought smiling faces to people across the country, including one personal story.

Read More

October 17, 2017

14 New Shrubs With Fringe Benefits

What’s popular with shrubs? Consumers want varieties that will give them more return on their investment, in terms of long-lasting blooms and multi-season appeal that lasts from spring until fall and at times stretches into the winter months. Here are 14 new varieties of shrubs and sub-shrubs to consider for your product mix in 2018.

Read More
NatureFresh Chili Dog

October 17, 2017

NatureFresh Farms Uses Pest-Detecting Dog to Sniff out …

Knowing that many worker dogs are trained to recognize and discover scents associated with drugs or bombs, the company figured it was possible to train a dog to recognize pepper weevil.

Read More
Researchers Study Rose Varieties

October 17, 2017

Rose Rosette Update: Research into Detection and Manage…

Halfway through a five-year, $4.6 million grant to combat rose rosette disease in the U.S., a national research team is encouraged by the amount of information learned, but admits having a way to go before finding how to overcome the deadly problem.

Read More
Seville Production Line

October 17, 2017

Production Technology Conference Tour Attendees See Tec…

AmericanHort’s Production Technology Conference in Dallas, TX, kicked off on Monday, Oct. 10, with a tour of three local production facilities.

Read More
Botrytis Symptoms on Leaves

October 17, 2017

How One Grower is Battling Botrytis with a New Biologic…

CropKing in Lodi, OH, recently began using a new beneficial fungus in its fight against Botrytis in its greenhouse tomatoes. So far, the results have been promising.

Read More
TTA PackPlanter S-2

October 16, 2017

TTA Introduces New Transplanter Suited for Smaller Grow…

The PackPlanter S has 16 grippers and a capacity of 10,000 to 20,000 plugs per hour in a small frame.

Read More
Karen Reardon, RISE

October 15, 2017

Karen Reardon of RISE Honored by CropLife America

CropLife America presented Reardon with its highest staff award for her successful effort to defend against the ban of pesticide use on private property in Maryland.

Read More

October 14, 2017

PlantPeddler Hosting Poinsettia Variety Day in December

The event will feature side-by-side comparisons of more than 100 commercial and pre-released varieties from seven breeders.

Read More
Whitefly adult

October 13, 2017

Researchers Continue to Keep Close Tabs on Whitefly

Dr. Lance Osborne of the University of Florida and Dr. Cindy McKenzie of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service are evaluating insecticide efficacy and the impact of product rotations on whitefly biotype populations.

Read More
GVZ Glasshouses

October 12, 2017

How to Deal With Common Greenhouse Maintenance Issues

The most common problems often come from a lack of cleanliness and faulty equipment. Here are a number of tips you can follow in each of these areas.

Read More
Mark Schneid

October 11, 2017

Bayer’s New Head of Environmental Science Has Roots in …

Mark Schneid says one of the biggest challenges the industry faces is the constantly evolving customer — particularly among millennials.

Read More
TreetownUSA

October 10, 2017

Houston-Based TreeTown USA Acquires Village Nurseries

With the addition of the new West Coast division, which will continue to operate under its trade name of Village Nurseries, TreeTown USA will now encompass 16 farm locations throughout California, Texas, and Florida, with more than 4,000 acres in production.

Read More

October 10, 2017

Sharpen Your Skills in Cost Management and Profitabilit…

The University of Florida is offering a new online course on costing and profitability. The course will take growers through the process of how to accurately evaluate cost of production, labor efficiency, pricing, and equipment investment decisions.

Read More

October 10, 2017

Coastal Callas Is a Dream Fulfilled for Founder Adrian …

Adrian Espinoza and his family founded Rancho Espinoza Inc. and Coastal Callas in California seven years ago with a mission and purpose to provide consistent quality and reliable supply of calla lilies to the marketplace.

Read More
Phillips, Ball Seed Partnership

October 10, 2017

Philips Lighting, Ball Seed Partner on Distribution

Ball Seed will now offer Philips GreenPower LED lighting as a complement to its liners, plugs, unrooted cuttings, seed, and prefinished products.

Read More