We’ve reached peak hurricane season and although Mother Nature has been consistent in her timing, preparation for these storms never gets easier. On Monday, September 2nd, Hurricane Dorian crashed into the Bahamas, specifically the Abacos Islands, rated as a Category 5 hurricane. With winds gusting in excess of 220 mph and ocean surges recording up to 18 feet of flooding, Dorian became the second-most-forceful hurricane to be recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, according to the National Weather Service. This combination of high winds and flooding are what caused immense damage to cities, homes and, as related to our produce world, agriculture.
In 2017, Hurricane Irma affected 80% of Florida’s acres of groves. According to Christa Court, assistant director of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Economic Impact Analysis Program, farmers had lost more than 3 million citrus trees. Though the wound of this most recent atmospheric phenomenal is still fresh in the minds of farmers across the American southeast, the damage done to budding crops is still to be assessed more fully. In the world of tomatoes, the staked plants getting ready for harvest in southern Georgia next month appear to have dodge the majority of the scars left by high winds and torrential downpour, but the fruit will now be carrying the burden of excessive moisture, leading to potential oversaturation of cell walls manifested as the fruit matures. These heavily water-logged growing conditions, coupled with late season heat, can also lead toward potential white fly contamination, and other moisture-driven parasites that can easily running fields across a multitude of products – from tomatoes to peppers, to oranges and cucumbers.
As more storms brew off the coast of the Florida peninsula, make sure to stay posted as we follow all environment happenings here at the Talk.