Florida vegetables mostly on schedule

EDITOR'S NOTE — The following article details Florida's vegetable production season for the first three months of 2008 and was compiled by the state's National Agricultural Statistics Service office.

January of 2008 began with harvests of squash, beans, tomatoes, and other vegetables in the southern Peninsula of Florida. However, harvests were quickly halted in several locations throughout the state during a cold front.

Hillsborough County reported some losses in strawberries and tomatoes due to frost damage. Some strawberry growers kept a constant stream of water on the crop to protect it from freezing.

Hendry County reported a 10-15 percent crop loss from wind and freezing temperatures.

Temperatures warmed back to normal as the month continued. Cool and dry conditions allowed field work to progress on schedule.

In Washington County, foggy mornings and mild temperatures caused disease problems in cole crops. Occasional scattered showers in mid-to-late January eased dry soil, but more rains were needed.

Some end of the month yields were negatively impacted from the prior freeze.

Growers marketed broccoli, sweet corn, avocado, lettuce, squash, beans, tomatoes, asparagus, peas, strawberries, cabbage, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, endive, escarole, peppers, and radishes.

Spring planting got underway in early February. Mild temperatures and mostly dry conditions allowed harvesting and planting on most days.

In the Plant City area, peppers and squash were being planted. Farmers were getting prepared to plant watermelons in Sumter County.

Harvesting of the winter crops continued with some decline in the volume and quality due to earlier freeze damage.

Mid-to-late February thunderstorms brought high winds and heavy rainfall in some areas, especially in the Panhandle. Early spring field preparations were temporarily delayed, but drought conditions were eased.

Producers marketed cabbage, broccoli, peppers, mixed greens, beans, cucumbers, celery, endive, escarole, eggplant, squash, strawberries, sweet corn, tomatoes, potatoes, and radishes.

In early March cool temperatures resulted in several freeze and frost reports across the state. Except for a spurt of storms in early March, very little rain fell.

Cold in Flagler County caused damage to the cabbage and potato crops. Damage reports for potatoes were widespread and ranged from minimal to significant depending on location and stage of growth.

In Sumter County, some freeze damage was reported for blueberries, watermelons, and squash.

Harvesting of winter crops ended while spring planting continued. Vegetables marketed during March included snap beans, broccoli, cabbage, celery, sweet corn, cucumbers, eggplant, mixed greens, okra, onions, peppers, potatoes, radishes, squash, snap beans, strawberries, tomatoes, and zucchini.

The following report reflects conditions as of April 1 and represents acreage planted for harvest during the months of April, May, June, and July. Estimated acreage by growing region is no longer available.

Snap beans: Freezing temperatures around mid-January damaged the crop. Most of the beans are grown in Hendry and Miami-Dade counties. In February, crops recovered from the January freeze and growers were only able to supply lighter volumes.

February and the first half of March, snap beans were harvested in Florida City. March brought dry and warmer conditions, which allowed plants to get back on track to a more normal production.

Cabbage: From January through March harvesting of cabbage was continuous, especially Putnam, and St. Johns counties.

Planting of the spring crop began in January and progressed on schedule due to mild conditions. In Washington County, foggy mornings and mild temperatures were causing disease problems in mid-January. The cold temperatures in Flagler County in early March caused the cabbage crop, which was about 50 percent harvested, to show minor signs of damage.

Cabbage harvesting gained momentum as the St. Patrick's Day holiday drew near. Towards the end of March cabbage season wrapped up in central parts of the state, but continued to be harvested in the southern Peninsula.

Cucumbers: Spring planting began in January and remained on schedule as warm, dry conditions were experienced. Harvesting was slow in January and February due to cold temperatures. By mid-March, cucumbers were in good condition in Fort Pierce and continued to be replanted.

Planting in Lafayette County began mid-March. In Hillsborough County, acreage expectations were similar to last year. Also, in Hendry County pressure on cucumbers from downy mildew continued as it becomes resistant to fungicides normally used to control it. Yield was reported as below normal.

Bell peppers: Mostly favorable weather during January and February allowed planting and harvesting to progress. In mid- February, cool temperatures slowed plant development over the central and southern Peninsula.

Tomatoes: Harvesting was active in the southern and East Coast regions in January. Growers ran overhead sprinklers and covered vegetables to protect them from the near freezing temperatures in early January, with some damage reported.

Mostly favorable weather conditions over the central and southern Peninsula during late January boosted crop growth and development. In February, some areas experienced delayed field work due to rain while others received some crop damage from cold weather.

In St Lucie, Hillsborough, Lee, and Hendry counties tomatoes were being planted, with the number of fields planted being reduced due to higher production costs and water use restrictions in place.

In Plant City tomatoes were harvested and marketed from February to March. In the southern Peninsula, tomatoes that were hit with the January freeze came to maturity by mid-March with lighter harvests.

the quantity marketed was less due to cold weather and fewer acres being planted.

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