Blueberries In The Cold
ALACHUA COUNTY - I spent the afternoon at Straughn Farms where I learned that the recent warm weather has caused blueberries to bloom 2 to 3 weeks early. Meaning a cold front later in the year can be fatal for the crop.
Florida has a 65 million dollar blueberry industry. Here in Alachua county Alto Straughn is a big part of that industry as he owns more than 700 acres of blueberries and is the biggest producer for the state of Florida. For the typically warm state, the possible freeze later in the year may impact the business.
Alto Straughn, the owner of Straughn Farms says, "Well, we average 4 or 5 dollars a pound for blueberries and if you lose two million pounds of blueberries, you do the math."
Blueberry growth can be damaged or killed at temperatures below 28 degrees Fahrenheit. Preparing in advance for a winter freeze in the late fall can help save your blueberry harvest. Spanish high tunnels are a preventative measure to keep the blueberries safe during harsh winters. These tunnels allow blueberries to bloom all year round.
Straughn says it's not just the cold that damages the blueberries but the wind and dew point combined. "One potential damage is if you get real hard winds, we got doors, that close on each end that are made out of plastic and metal," he adds. The tunnels help save water as they require less than half the normal usage.
Because of the tunnels he says that, "Last year, we had nearly 100 percent protection in those tunnels, where we lost about 60 percent of the crop outside. So at least last year, it was a major extra protection process for us."
As the weather gets warmer, blueberries begin to ripen and this is a major incentive for growing them in our state. Straughn hopes to have a successful blueberry season despite the possible freeze.
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