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Ice Protects North Central Florida Strawberries from Colder Temperatures

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Earlier this week a cold snap of record-breaking temperatures in the 20s made its way across North Central Florida. While some resorted to wearing layers of clothes to keep warm, farmers resorted to layering ice to keep their plants warm.

In a preventative practice, ice can be used to keep fruit from being damaged due to natural freezes. In Bradford County, agricultural agent for University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Jim DeValerio, said this technique of adding warm water to the frozen strawberries is used to prevent damage on the region’s crop.

The warm ice on the strawberry plants keeps the fruit warmer than the colder outside air. With cold air continuing throughout this week, DeValerio fears the fruit may get waterlogged and become ruined.

“The downside of that is if it’s an extended period of time, you are going to start to degrade the fruit,” DeValerio said.

Tens of thousands of strawberries were affected this week by low temperatures. The effects of this freeze will likely not be felt until the end of the strawberry bud’s blooming cycle.

“I think it’s a potentially high revenue loss because it’s gonna set them back to two to three weeks if they were not successful in protecting those blooms and the fruit,” DeValerio said.

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The berries may not be the only produce affected by the freeze. Cabbage and broccoli are sensitive to the cold, as well. DeValerio spoke with a local farmer who also had a loss on his farm with mixed vegetables.

The strawberries affected by this week’s freeze are beginning to thaw. The full extent of the damage to this crop will be known by the end of this week. But DeValerio still fears for the future.

“Nobody can predict how many freezes we’re gonna get in the next couple months,” he said.

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