DROUGHT IMPACTS ON SUGAR AND CITRUS
WEATHER IMPACTS PRODUCE SMALLER CROP THIS SEASON
AND THREATEN SIGNIFICANT IMPACTS ON NEXT CROP
Contact: Judy Sanchez
Released: April 15, 2009
Clewiston, FL — April 15, 2009 — Farmers are concerned about the potential for prolonged and crop-damaging drought conditions due to lack of rainfall and continued releases from Lake Okeechobee.
“This is the driest year on record so far,” said Judy Sanchez, director of corporate communications. “We’ve had nearly zero rainfall during the month of April and less than one inch for the year. Even last night’s storm averaged less than a quarter inch across our farms.”
“Sugarcane and citrus, like most South Florida crops, rely on rainfall to effectively produce a crop. Irrigation helps, but the quantity of water available with irrigation programs will only keep the cane or trees alive--it will not effectively support growth of a crop,” Sanchez said.
Farmers endured economic damage during historically low Lake Okeechobee levels during the previous drought that only ended when Tropical Storm Fay, by pure chance, dropped sufficient rainfall north of the lake to raise water levels.
As for the impact on agriculture, Sanchez said that like the rest of the Florida industry, U.S. Sugar’s cane crop was almost 700,000 tons smaller than expected due in large part to drought and lack of irrigation water. The company’s citrus crop is similarly tracking below estimate by the same percentage for the same reasons.
Current dry conditions threaten next year’s sugar cane crop as adequate rainfall is critical to sugarcane as the crop enters the grand growth period. When rainfall is limiting, growth and ultimately tonnage is significantly reduced.
For citrus, the lack of water at this critical time is already impacting the fruit set for citrus trees that need rainfall to provide support to the tree to set the crop. Citrus trees drop blossoms to counter balance the moisture stress.
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