By Gene McAvoy, Hendry Agricultural Extension Agent
LABELLE, FLORIDA -- Reports from the National Weather Service indicate that December was the 3rd warmest on record. Growers report that above normal temperatures have accelerated crop growth and are playing havoc with planting schedules as some planting are as much as 15 days ahead of scheduled harvest. Daytime temperatures have been mostly in the 70�s and 80�s with nighttime temps in the 40�s, 50�s and 60�s and a few 30�s in normally colder locations.
Unsettled weather during the holiday period bought some rain to south Florida growing areas. Accumulations varied widely with highest reported totals from Balm and Homestead. In addition to rain, fog and heavy dews and mostly cloudy conditions punctuated with varying amounts of rainfall has continued to favor disease development in many areas over the past few weeks. In some places, growers reported minor disruptions of planting and cultural activities.
Crops coming to market include cabbage, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, endive, escarole, lettuce, okra, peppers, radishes, snap beans, squash, strawberries, sweet corn, tomatoes, watermelons and specialty items. Quality is mostly good although reports indicate that warm weather has affected strawberry quality. Reports from the Ruskin area indicate that they are between crops at this time.
The short-term forecast from the National Weather Service in Miami calls for no significant changes to the current weather pattern through the early part of next week. A ridge of high pressure to the north will maintain breezy conditions. Flow off the Atlantic will bring patchy clouds and low-level moisture and the possibility of a few scattered showers. A cold front is predicted to impact the area by Thursday possibly dropping temperatures to seasonable lows.