Yesterday, growers and shippers across the Southeast were highly attuned to their weather and hurricane trackers as they watched for developments of Hurricane Idalia. Here is what they had to share about the impending storm at press time.

Citrus: Melanie Sallin Ressler IMG Enterprises, Inc. says at this point, she doesn't believe its citrus crops will be affected. “However, these storms can be unpredictable,” she says, noting that they are preparing the groves to receive excess moisture. “Strong winds should come north of citrus-producing regions. In an abundance of caution, we are currently laying down our ornamental tree farm in Lake County,” she adds.

Over at Noble Citrus, Quentin Roe expects some sustained winds in the 20-25 mph range with gusts in the 35-40 mph range in its growing areas. ”This type of wind should result in minimal drops. We are concerned about wind scar as the fruit is blown against branches constantly for many hours,” he says. “Wind speeds aren’t great enough to damage the trees in a meaningful way.”

In terms of varieties, he says grapefruit and pummelos are most susceptible due to the fruit size at this time of year while oranges and tangerines are still small in diameter compared to what they will be at harvest time.

“Really this is a watch-and-wait situation for Florida citrus. Based on the current forecast, we do not believe this storm will have a notable impact on the market,” says Roe.

An early look at the storm. Photo: National Hurricane Center.

Squash: “There are crops in Georgia ready to harvest squash which is the earliest crop,” says Neil Mazal of East Coast Farms & Vegetables. “More importantly there are plants that are sprouting and transplants in the ground so people in that have laid plastic, that will be subjected to being torn up. Those in Georgia will I’m sure experience some loss there.”

Ultimately between the Southeastern states that may be affected by Idalia, he believes it’s going to ultimately impact the winter vegetable deal. “That will probably push demand out west to Mexican growers,” says Mazal, who at press time added that there were already challenges getting trucks to come in and out of the regions for fear of not being able to get into--or out of--the area thanks to Idalia.

Strawberries: “Florida has kind of halted laying plastic for the strawberries, and just waiting till after the storm to see how that goes through,” says Gary Guynn of Guynn Family Produce Sales Inc.

Tomatoes: Guynn also says it’s currently farming tomatoes in western North Carolina. “We’ve had a lot of rain, but that’s not due to the hurricane yet,” he says. “The more central and northern Florida areas are obviously very concerned as well as our farm in Tifton (Georgia) where we have already set tomatoes.”

The concern there is about strong winds given the crop is still immature. “Winds could definitely be a problem with plants falling over and/or losing their bloom,” he says. “Everyone in the Southeastern farming community is concerned and has a reason to be. Even just having heavy rains alone is not ever good on the crops, but the winds can really cause havoc.”

Tropicals and exotics: “With the current projection of the storm landing around northwest Florida, the only crops that we are worried about are our passion fruit farms that have been hit by a lot of rain already,” says Gabriel Bernal of Seasons Farm Fresh. “We also grow some mamey in this region which is a more sturdy tree--passion fruit are grown are vines and more susceptible to damage from stronger winds/rains. However, we are waiting to assess damages after this upcoming weekend.”

For more information:
IMG Citrus

Quentin Roe
Noble Citrus

Neil Mazal
East Coast Farms & Vegetables

Gary Guynn
Guynn Family Produce Sales Inc.

Gabriel Bernal
Seasons Farm Fresh