It seems every winter, at some point during the season, the country experiences heavy snow and extremely cold temperatures. Despite Florida’s warm weather reputation, we are certainly no exception to cold fronts. This week Florida’s strawberry fields have seen record-breaking low temperatures, with nights hitting as low as 28° F. But don’t worry, our Florida strawberry growers are prepared. Here’s how they handle cold weather events.
Most of our strawberry growers throughout the Plant City, Florida and Dover, Florida regions utilize overhead irrigation. This is a process that protects the fruit by forming an igloo of ice around the strawberries and strawberry blooms.
The ice holds temperatures at 32° F so the berries and blooms stay above freezing. This is the industry standard for protecting a Florida strawberry crop from freezing.
An alternative to overhead irrigation is a system called ground cover. Some growers use these large white tarps to cover and protect the berry plants from cold weather conditions. Many growers use a combination of water and ground cover.
So, how does wind affect the Florida strawberry crop? It can be a friend or an enemy, and that depends on the temperatures. In some cases, wind can help to alleviate cold weather and stay above freezing, preventing our growers from having to run water in the fields.
In other cases, if the weather is going to be below freezing and running overhead irrigation is inevitable, wind can be more harmful than helpful. Too much wind can affect the direction of the irrigation sprinklers, and cause uneven water coating, which can result in both strawberry and strawberry bloom damage.
The ideal temperatures for Florida strawberry farming are 75°-78° in the afternoons, 55°-58° in the evening, sunshine and no rain.
Extreme cold weather will slow down the strawberry ripening process. This will cause light harvest until temperatures return to normal.
Cool weather does keep strawberries on the plant longer, allowing for natural sugars to develop. Fruit flavor and sweetness can enhance during cold weather events, making it even more enjoyable for consumers.
Thank you to our Florida strawberry growers for their sleepless nights and diligent work ethic. It takes a lot of attention and love to grow delicate strawberries. We are thankful for our food and for our farmers!