With widespread rain in Florida for the past week and a half and another week of rain forecasted, growers are becoming concerned about what this might mean for their crops.
For the past seven days, rainfall has ranged from 1.20 to 9.43 inches in Florida. Depending on location, the rain has either been devastating or vital for the survival of crops.
In Hastings, at the peak of potato harvest, the 5 inches of rain received has started slowing down the harvest process. The soils in the Hastings area all have a hard pan. This means the soil holds water a little bit longer, making the soil not only wetter, but heavier. So harvesters are having to slow down to pick potatoes.
Gary England, director of the Hastings Agricultural Extension Center, says, “We’re on our third day of no rain here at our research farm … It’s helping dry out a little bit. Near us, I’ve been seeing farmers harvesting in standing water. This has slowed them down a little bit, but they’re still able to go. The majority of the potatoes in the ground are ready to harvest, but if the soils stay waterlogged, and we continue with these higher temperatures, the quality of our potatoes will begin to decrease.”
If additional rainfall occurs, it will most likely make the situation worse in Hastings. The combination of moist soil and higher temperatures could have a deleterious effect on the potatoes in the ground and could potentially cause them to break down.
Precautions have already been taken in Hastings. Growers are keeping their ditches cleaned out, which allows the rainfall to flow off their fields. “That’s the main thing they can do … Some of them I’ve been seeing working on pipes and making sure that their draining systems are in tip-top shape so that any further rainfall will drain off at an acceptable pace,” said England.
The crop is just about ready to be harvested, so it is too late in the season for diseases to be a threat. “If we get some more excessive rain, we’ll just try to keep the water off our fields to our best ability. Making sure we get them harvested as quickly as we can is what we’re striving for,” said England. “I haven’t heard anybody complaining about total crop loss, but if we get more rainfall with higher temperatures, that could change. I’ll be sending out a notice to the growers forewarning them about what to expect.”
Aside from potatoes, England added that he attended a meeting where blueberry farmers said the rain ended their harvest prematurely. Excessive rainfall made picking difficult because for quality reasons, blueberries must be picked when they are dry.
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