Florida farmers prepare for winter, cold temperatures

BELLE GLADE, Fla. - When the temperatures dip, growers of agriculture make careful plans.

The cold snap overnight into Tuesday morning did not turn out to be a problem for local growers.

In Belle Glade, the Sugarcane Growers Cooperative said growers were not anticipating that the temperatures would bring a frost or freeze to harm plants. 

Sweet corn and sugarcane growers use lit "smudge pots" as helicopters circulate and push warm air down onto crops.  The Sugarcane Growers Cooperative anticipated it would be too windy Tuesday morning to use that option.  Growers instead were considering raising water levels in canals. 

The Indian River Citrus League says as long as temperatures don't dip below 28 degrees for a period of several hours, the cooler weather is a bonus for citrus growers.  Florida produces about 70 percent of the annual production of citrus.  A tree will become dormant in cooler weather, and its vitality is boosted.

Recently, Florida citrus growers have faced issues with diseases like citrus greening and canker. The colder weather makes the plant more resistant to future cold weather and disease.  Another bonus, growers say, the ripening and sweetening of the fruit is helped in cooler weather.  Next week South Florida citrus is expected to be tasty as a result.

Meanwhile, smaller nurseries were also looking at the forecast.  Quintessance Nursery in Loxahatchee planned to cover up only the most tender and young plants, but believed the wind would be the biggest threat to delicate plants.

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