Crop Cold Weather Protection
While Florida winters are generally pleasant, with the low ranging from 40°F to 60°F, frosts and freezes can still occur. Many growers must have a protection plan to handle cold weather.
Generally, central and south Florida growers need to be more concerned about freezes than growers in the northern and western parts of the state. Warm weather in south and central Florida allow for the growing season to continue, but a cold snap can have drastic impacts.
Methods of Cold Protection
Some Florida growers use heaters to protect high-cash crops, and others use wind machines during calm nights to mix warm air with cold air near the ground.
Florida growers often use heated blankets to capture the day’s heat stored in the ground and then radiate it to the sky at night. Even though heat blankets are effective protection for low-growing crops, they must be removed after a short period to avoid damaging the plants.
Applying water to crops, which is the most popular method for cold protection in Florida, is another option. Growers using water for cold protection need to determine the critical minimum temperatures for their crops and operate their irrigation systems to prevent crop damage while using water efficiently.
Note that certain crops, such as ferns and strawberries, require large amounts of water per acre to protect crops, while other crops require smaller amounts for protection.
FAWN Cold Protection Toolkit
The Florida Automated Weather Network (FAWN) examined the general procedure Florida growers follow when dealing with cold events to develop cold protection tools. These tools provide useful information and have reduced cold protection costs by millions.
To learn more about FAWN cold protection tools, visit the Cold Protection Toolkit.
Excerpted and adapted from:
J. L. Jackson, K. Morgan and W. R. Lusher, “Citrus Cold Weather Protection and Irrigation Scheduling Tools Using Florida Automated Weather Network (FAWN) Data (SL296),” UF/IFAS Department of Soil and Water Science (rev. 08/2012).