The latest hurricane activity to threaten the United States could impact South Florida vegetable production early next week.
According to weather.com, Hurricane Eta is threatening to approach South Florida this weekend and bring rain, high winds or a combination of both as early as Monday morning.
Vegetable producers are feeling anxious right now, says Gene McAvoy, University of Florida Regional Vegetable Extension Agent IV Emeritus, especially since they’re at the height of the fall season.
“We’re watching it anxiously. No matter what happens, I’m sure we’re going to get a bag of rain out of it,” McAvoy said. “Even if it doesn’t directly hit Florida and we don’t have any wind; right now it looks like it will remain a tropical storm and not a hurricane; but there’s one model that has it coming into Southeast Florida as a Category 3 (hurricane) or more.
“We’re anxious about it because we’re at the stage now where our crops are pretty far along.”
What’s Being Harvested?
McAvoy said farmers are harvesting eggplants, peppers, squash, cucumbers, herbs and specialty vegetables. They’ll begin harvesting tomatoes next week.
“It’s a little different than if they’re baby plants and you can replant rather quickly. Even if (Eta) misses Florida completely, I’m sure it’s going to result in a lot of rain, and we don’t really need any. The past several tropical systems that went through the Gulf, while they didn’t directly impact us, they’ve pumped a lot of moisture into Florida and we’ve had a lot of heavy rains and flooding,” McAvoy said.
“We’re approaching the height of the fall season. Our big market in the fall is Thanksgiving. The next couple of weeks are critical in Florida.”
The state’s citrus crop could also be impacted.
“Citrus, we’re not harvesting yet, but the fruit is big enough that if you do get a lot of wind, the fruit is big enough it could start swinging around on the trees and you’ll have a lot of fruit dropping on the ground,” he added.