By Clint Thompson
The storm known as Idalia will become a hurricane by the time it makes landfall in Florida this week. That’s not good news for the region’s strawberry growers already preparing for the upcoming season.
Producers are already laying plastic with expectations of planting their crop in September. A storm, with potential to reach Category 3 status, could wreak havoc on the plastic that’s already been laid.
“We’ve been watching the updates. It could be a problem if it hits and people have already laid plastic,” said Matt Parke, farm manager of Parkesdale Farms in Plant City, Florida. “We don’t really need (the rain) right now. We’re in plastic mode. We like to run our water to get the right moisture in our fields, we don’t need Mother Nature to do it for us. She normally likes to dump a little more than we want.
“When you get a storm like that, you get rain and wind. A lot of rain will wash the dirt off the edge of these beds where the cup is that holds them down, and the land just picks up and runs with it.”
Rain Not Needed
Parke said his farms have received a substantial amount of rainfall in recent weeks. Dry weather is preferred right now, but that will not be the case on Wednesday if the current storm track holds.
“We’ve got one last field to lay ourselves, so hopefully we’ll get done, but it’s too wet to get into it,” Parke said last Friday. Every morning I come out here to try and it’s not dried out yet,” Parke said. “We had a rain (event) over here on this last block I’m laying three days ago. It was two inches in 45 minutes. We didn’t get a lick of rain anywhere else.
“If that storm does hit, it’s going to mess with the plastic we have on the ground.”
Parke said his first plantings of strawberries will occur around Sept. 20.