Commissioner’s AgriCorner: Florida farmers stay one step ahead of winter


KNOWN AS THE NATION’S “winter salad bowl,” Florida produces an abundance of the freshest and highest-quality products in the world this time of year.

In fact, Florida’s 47,000 farms offer something for everyone, with nearly 300 different commodities. Because of Florida’s uniquely warm climate, we can produce and purchase fresh products at affordable prices nearly any day of the year. However, winter’s chill does creep into Florida and sometimes threatens crop production — but we’re working to help growers stay one step ahead.

In deciding whether to irrigate during frost-freeze conditions or when to apply nutrients during wet months, producers need accurate weather information. Producers often have to use available but less-accurate information from other parts of their region.

With better technology, we can now help producers make more informed decisions when responding to weather incidents. The “My Florida Farm Weather” program provides real-time local weather data from the nearest source available, often from a producer’s own field.

The “My Florida Farm Weather” website enables producers across Florida to obtain critical winter frost/freeze forecasts in real time. The website also contains recommendations on irrigation and other crop protection methods, along with up-to-the-minute information on rainfall, temperature, humidity, dew point, wind speed and wind direction. This data helps farmers make important decisions about managing their operations, which can save water, reduce costs, and mitigate impacts on the environment.

The “My Florida Farm Weather” program, developed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in partnership with the University of Florida IFAS Extension’s Florida Automated Weather Network (FAWN), collects information from hundreds of weather stations throughout Florida, including ones on private agricultural lands. The information is aggregated on a map of Florida that anyone can view on a desktop computer or smartphone.

While agricultural producers already had access to FAWN, the additional data from private lands makes this tool the most comprehensive network of weather information available to agricultural producers in Florida. During the past two years, we partnered with more than 150 agricultural producers to install weather stations that collect the data now posted on the “My Florida Farm Weather” program. Additional information will be available as more weather stations are installed over time.

Cold weather is on its way, so visit the new “My Florida Farm Weather” program now to find out how this information can support your operations. Visit http://fawn.ifas.ufl.edu/mffw/ and check the box next to “Grower,” click on a weather station and then select “Cold Protection Toolkit” to view the data. Visit www.FreshFromFlorida.com for more information.

TO VIEW THE DATA, VISIT: http://fawn.ifas.ufl.edu/mffw/ and check the box next to “Grower,” click on a weather station, and then select “Cold Protection Toolkit”

CREDITS

story by ADAM H. PUTNAM, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture

photos by JEFFREY G. WILLIAMSON, UF/IFAS Extension