Cold Crops

Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - 9:32am

Winter blast has Florida farmers keeping a close eye on their crops.

A hard freeze warning issued by the National Weather Service could mean huge losses in Florida's orange crop.

The owners of P.H. Freeman and Sons near Clermont said they're worried about the weather.

The sprinklers were already turned on Monday afternoon.

A water jet is placed at the base of each tree that sprays 68-degree water that evaporates into the tree.

When temperatures drop, growers said the ice forms a protective layer on the fruit.

Growers can expect damage if temperatures drop below 28 degrees for at least four hours, which was expected early Tuesday morning.

There is about $1 million worth of fruit on the trees at the Freeman's grove, and workers could also be affected if the damage is extensive.

"If it is a devastating fruit freeze, you can about mark the calendar. About 76 days and it is gone," Ric Freeman said. "That's Valencias, Hamlins, everything."

A freeze around Christmas in 1989 annihilated the citrus crop and meant every tree in the Freeman's grove had to be replanted.

Many growers moved farther south, but the Freemans stayed in Lake County and said, so far, it has been worth the risk.

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