Florida growers are watching to see if recent extreme heat and heavy rains significantly damaged their spring crops.

Abnormally high temperatures in south Florida the weekend of April 9-10 and torrential rains in central Florida affected production areas in late March.

“The (bell) pepper is burning in the field,” said Adam Lytch, operations manager for Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc., which grows and packs from Immokalee, Fla. “There is a lot of sun scarring. The plantings we thought would go a lot longer and be more extended in pickings is being more concentrated.”

Jim Monteith, sales manager for Pacific Collier Fresh Co., Immokalee, said 70-degree nights and 90-plus degree days have been taking its toll on crops.

“We’re still working a lot of good pepper, and the quality is excellent,” he said April 11. “We don’t have any concerns now. Our main concern is how the extreme heat may start losing some of our pepper to color changes, as we’re starting to see more sun tans and mixed reds because of it.”

Joe Pascarella, director of sales for Goodson Farms Inc., Balm, Fla., said he expects some problems to emerge but said it could take several days before damage becomes more evident. He said he expected the torrential rains March 28-31, to reduce yields of bell peppers, cucumbers and squash, which Goodson Farms had started harvesting in mid-April.

On tomatoes, Joey Poklemba, sales manager of Pacific Tomato Growers Ltd., Palmetto, Fla., said the heavy rains harmed central Florida tomato production.

“My farmers are telling me there are some severe problems out there with the rain and wind we’ve had over the last few weeks,” Poklemba said. “How severe it is, I can’t tell. There’s bacteria, disease, and a lot of bloom drop because of the wind. They are saying it’s pretty severe damage out there.”

Though some growers planned to begin harvesting in mid-late April, Poklemba said Pacific Tomato plans to start central Florida harvesting in early May, on time as normal. He characterized quality as high accompanied by a strong market. Poklemba said Pacific Tomato plans to finish south Florida harvesting by late April.

On April 12, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported 1 1/9-bushel cartons green jumbo bell peppers from central and south Florida selling for $8.85-10.85 with extra-large and large at $10.85-12.85. That’s similar to the week earlier when jumbos and large fetched $10.85 while extra large sold for $10.85-11.85.

On tomatoes, the USDA reported 25-pound cartons of loose mature greens 85% U.S. No. one or better selling for $19.95-21.95 for 5x6s, 6x6s and 6x7s, down from $21.95-23.95 the previous week for the 5x6s and $23.95 for the 6x6s and 6x7s.

Severe heat, rain harm Florida vegetable production