(Jan. 22, 9:10 a.m.) BELLE GLADE, Fla. — Florida grower-shippers are assessing damage after temperatures plummeted to sub-freezing levels in the early morning hours Jan. 22, and the outlook on some vegetable crops are bleak.

With freeze warnings throughout the central and south Florida growing regions, temperatures fell to as low as 22 degrees in Belle Glade, 27 in Immokalee and 25 in Plant City.

Florida strawberry growers, who sprayed their fields with water to form protective ice domes to keep them from freezing, in initial reports appear to have escaped serious damage. But that can change in March, as the berries mature.

The outlook isn’t as optimistic for south Florida green beans and sweet corn.

“Most likely the freeze will wipe out the green beans,” said Bryan Biederman, assistant sales manager for the Belle Glade-based Pioneer Growers Co-op. “Corn is yet to be determined.”

Biederman said temperatures fell to 26-30 degrees and remained there for a considerable amount of time in most of Pioneer Growers members’ fields.

He said the company was estimating damage the morning of Jan. 22 and expected to know more about the freeze’s effects later by the end of the week.

Growers were also viewing possible damage to central Florida’s strawberry fields.

Ted Campbell, executive director of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association, Dover, said growers were up all night spraying water on their fields trying to protect their crops from another night of freezing temperatures.

“Last night was a tough one, the coldest so far,” he said. “Tonight (Jan. 22) will be right at the freezing area. Obviously, the most tender parts will be the blooms, and we are looking at a possible gap of a crop in five to six weeks when these blooms would have come into mature fruit.”

Jim Monteith, sales manager for Pacific Collier Fresh Co., Immokalee, said frost is seen “all over the place” and that temperatures likely fell in the low 30s.

He said growers the morning of Jan. 22 were in the fields and he expects to know more about possible damage to bell peppers and tomatoes later that day.

Freeze harms Florida corn, beans, other vegetables
A worker runs green beans on the packing line at Ray’s Heritage LLC, Belle Glade, Fla., a major south Florida grower of green beans, sweet corn, lettuce and radishes. Growers were assessing damage from a freeze that struck south Florida growing regions during the early morning hours of Jan. 22. The freeze is expected to have damaged Belle Glade-area green beans.