WEB EXCLUSIVE: Check out how these Florida crops fared this year

08/06/2013 11:00:00 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

Weather caused problems for central Florida vegetable growers, says Steve O'Brien, vice president of C&D Fruit & Vegetable Co. Inc. in Bradenton.

The late March cold harmed May production, and excessive rains disrupted plantings of bell peppers, cucumbers and squash, preventing growers from finishing all their plantings, he says.

“The early spring deal was tough,” he says. “This was definitely a season for some absolutely crazy weather. It’s an old joke, but the planets were not in line with us this spring.”

O'Brien says his fields didn’t experience any serious disease or agronomic issues but says the weather challenges delayed the spring crop by up to three weeks.

Growers harvest red potatoes at L&M Cos. Inc.’s Palatka, Fla., operation in mid-May.L&M Potatoes, watermelon

Parts of Florida’s potato and watermelon deals were also difficult, says Ken Wiles, sales manager and general manager for Mack Farms Inc. in Lake Wales.

Although Mack Farms’ and other South Florida potato growers experienced strong production, yields, quality and prices, heavy rains bedeviled North Florida growers, Wiles says.

In North Florida, heavy rains flooded some fields and sliced into yields and quality in the northern parts of the Hastings and Palatka production region. The southern part of that growing region fared better and harvested higher quality, he says.

“It was a very good growing season for Mack Farms and most South Florida growers as we saw yields that were normal or near-normal and we didn’t have any serious freeze issues,” Wiles says.

On watermelon, late-winter cold weather stunted some of the young or just-forming plants, and heavy rains harmed quality in southwest Florida, Wiles says.

Mack Farms’ central Florida acreage saw high yields and strong quality, he says.

Avocados, tropicals

Contrary to other Florida growers, South Florida avocado and tropical growers experienced a strong growing season.

Peter Leifermann, director of sales and fruit procurement for Brooks Tropicals LLC in Homestead, says the season was excellent for avocados and carambolas, or starfruit.

“I can’t think of a single catastrophic weather event that we’ve had in South Florida for three years, though I know I’m jinxing myself,” he says. “We have had some rain, hail and cold temperatures, but no freezes or significant tropical storms. Without those, we’re cooking with gas.”

The consistent, favorable temperatures in the groves during the past two years have helped produce many healthy plants and trees, Leifermann says.

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