(UPDATED COVERAGE, FEB. 17): Growers are assessing damage from a mid-February freeze that harmed Florida’s and Georgia’s spring blueberry crops — and some initial estimates paint a dire picture for northern Florid and southern Georgia.
Janice Honigberg, president of Washington, D.C.-based Sun Belle Inc., said Feb. 16 it was too early to accurately estimate damage. She said preliminary damage estimates report central and south Florida regions sustaining 5%-35% damage and north Florida regions receiving 25%-35% damage.
“Damage varies by the amount of freeze protection people were able to put on,” she said Feb. 16. “There were water pressure issues as so many growers were putting on the water. This will be an unfolding story.”
Mark Greeff, vice president and general manager of the Eastern region for Watsonville, Calif.-based Driscoll Strawberry Associates Inc., said he’s receiving different reports which make it difficult to assess damage.
His initial estimate is 10%-70% crop loss depending on the grower.
“There definitely is damage,” Greeff said Feb. 16. “There are varying degrees of damage between northern parts of Florida and Georgia. I’m hearing of growers having significant damage while others only minimal. In theory, based on what we see now, the Alma area seems more affected than Homerville (Ga.), but it sounds like there is a certain level of damage everywhere.”
Greeff said growers can assess the damage better in the coming days. He said growers ran water for frost protection the second night, Feb. 12, but strong winds prevented them from employing water the first night.
Honigberg said the cold could delay Florida’s start from late March until early April.
Opening the U.S. blueberry season, south and central Florida typically begins production in late March and ends in early May with north Florida production usually finishing mid-May before southern Georgia commences in late May.
Note on correction: This article originally incorrectly quoted Janice Honigberg about north Florida damage estimates.