(Jan. 23, 4:38 p.m.) IMMOKALEE, Fla. — Florida growers are assessing damage from three nights of subfreezing temperatures that struck central and south Florida growing regions the week of Jan. 19.

Buyers should expect lighter than normal volume of squash, green beans and sweet corn for the next several weeks.

The freezes, which struck during the overnight hours of Jan. 20-22, caused extensive damage to the Belle Glade region’s winter green beans and sweet corn. The low temperatures also damaged the tops of Immokalee-area squash.

Add the state’s spring potatoes to the crops damaged by the bitterly cold temperatures of Jan. 22.

Members of the South Florida Potato Cooperative had a conference call Jan. 23 to discuss damage.

Jason Turner, salesman with Mac Farms Inc., Lake Wales, said the freeze damaged central and south Florida potatoes, which were only a week or so away from first harvests.

“On our farm, we had some severe canopy damage and vine damage,” he said Jan. 23. “About 50% of the crop is affected with 25% of that severe.”

While growers reported severe damage to Belle Glade area green beans, Immokalee growers weren’t sure of damages on Jan. 23.

“The freeze could have been a lot worse,” said Jeff Stepanovich, salesman for Florida Specialties Inc. “We won’t know the degree yet. Some of it has to show the damage.”

Stepanovich said Immokalee-area beans should show damage by the middle of the week of Jan. 26.

Jim Monteith, sales manager for Pacific Collier Fresh Co., Immokalee, said bell peppers generally escaped injury while fields of Immokalee-area squash had blackened leaves from the freeze burning.

“The cold burned the tops but not the fruit,” he said Jan. 23. “But we’re in good shape. I have seen squash a lot worse that has come back.

Monteith predicted light squash volume for the next two to three weeks.

Tampa-area news reports had the Plant City strawberry crop suffering few damages. Growers said it wouldn’t be until the week of Jan. 26 until the full scope of damage would become evident.

In Belle Glade, initial damage reports had some green beans fields suffering 80% to 100% losses.

“It was a bad one which will be very devastating. The losses here are tremendous,” said Randy Wilkinson, president of Wilkinson-Cooper Produce Inc., which grows and ships corn and green beans. “For the next two months, the supply chain will be down by 80%.”

Wilkinson said temperatures plummeted to 23-28 degrees and remained there throughout the night in most growing locations.

Florida growers say full scope of damage unknown
Costes “Junior” Kimes, a worker for Loxahatchee, Fla.-based Hundley Farms Inc., a member of the Belle Glade, Fla.-based Pioneer Growers Co-op, views a damaged field of green beans north of Belle Glade. Kimes was preparing to disk over the field that sustained a 100% loss after a freeze burned the plants during the early morning hours of Jan. 22.