Mandarin orange grove takes hit from cold

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Florida cold has taken its toll on a well-known orange grove right off Orange Picker Road in Mandarin.

At Dave Royal's orange grove, it's the Satsumas that, for years, have been the cream of the crop. But it only takes four hours of cold below 28 degrees to damage and sour the fruit.

"It's heartbreaking because of the time you put it in," Royal said.

Royal, who has 240 trees on his property, said all of the oranges have been damaged, and now the focus is on saving the orange trees.

"Another cold snap moving in, all I can do Is run the mist system," he said. "There's not much more I can do."

That system is connected to an irrigation pump, which powers the mist. The water runs all night long, freezing and insulating the root of the tree.

"The ice might be up this high, but the warmth is going up in the tree and saves it," Royal said. "So far, the trees look good with the mist system."

The coldest it's been in the grove so far this year is 24 degrees, Royal said. He said if it gets down to 20 degrees or colder, not only will he lose the fruit, he'll also lose the trees.

Meanwhile, at Blue Sky Farms in Elkton, farmers say the last cold front damaged their cabbage and singed the broccoli. They say If the cold weather continues, it could do damage to their precious potato crop.

"The potatoes will be coming out of the ground, there will be more exposure then, so we're concerned like that," one farmer said. "The next couple weeks could be tough on us."

Growers say they also are keeping a close eye on their onions, hoping that the days and nights ahead don't bring more arctic air.

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