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Texas produce growers brace for cold weather

By
Tad Thompson

South Texas produce growers braced for freezing weather as a cold front moved southward heading into the Valentine’s Day weekend.

Dante Galeazzi, CEO of the Texas International Produce Association, said Feb. 11 that growers in the technically sub-tropical southernmost tip of Texas were expecting to face temperatures in the high 20s late on Feb. 15 going into Feb. 16.

Galeazzi noted that the duration of the cold would be critically important to how much damage could be inflicted on the crops.

He said McAllen-area temperatures were in the 50s on Feb. 11. There was drizzle on that day. If cloud cover were to remain over the area, it would help keep the temperatures up a few critical degrees.

Tommy Wilkins, director of sales and business development for Grow Farms Texas LLC, said the forecast for fields in Uvalde, TX, were predicted to be in the teens for Feb. 14-15. Cabbage fields there can withstand cold temperatures for limited amounts of time, Wilkins noted. Uvalde is 275 miles north of McAllen.

As to the 28-to-30-degree forecast for deep-south Texas Feb. 15-16, it will be spinach and tender leafy vegetables like kale and cilantro that face the greatest peril, Wilkins continued.

South Texas’ cabbage and citrus “can handle cold for a limited amount of time.” Wilkins, whose office is in Donna, TX, said the area’s citrus growers are “in the middle of grapefruit harvest right now.”  The short-term impact of the cold weather is presenting miserable conditions for field workers.

Wilkins said south Texas onions shouldn’t be too threatened by predicted temperatures because the harvest isn’t due for six or eight weeks.

“There are a lot of farmers who are a little nervous today,” Wilkins said Feb. 11. “The cold air is coming straight down from the north. It’s going to be a tough weekend.”

Photo: Tommy Wilkins

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