Immature cotton flattened by winds from Hurricane Michael in Jackson County. Credit: Doug Mayo. UF/IFAS
Tom Nordlie, UF/IFAS Communication Services
Hurricane Michael caused production losses totaling $158 million for Florida’s agricultural industries in the 2018-19 growing season, according to economists with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
The dollar estimate, along with more detailed information, has been forwarded to state and federal agencies to facilitate relief efforts, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “No one understands the magnitude of this disaster more fully than our UF/IFAS Extension agents based in the Panhandle,” Payne said. “They rose to the occasion and connected with farmers, landowners and property managers to obtain raw data concerning the status of their crops before and after Hurricane Michael struck. We even used drones to obtain aerial images of crop fields. Then, the UF/IFAS Economic Impact Analysis Program team extrapolated from the raw data to produce a comprehensive figure for the entire affected area. To ensure that their calculations were accurate, the team engaged in discussions with state agencies, commodity groups and other academic experts to obtain their input.”
The $158 million figure represents lost sales revenues that producers would have received during the 2018-19 growing season if the storm hadn’t impacted them. Economists use the term “losses” to describe this outcome, said Christa Court, an assistant scientist with the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department and EIAP assistant director.
Soybeans flattened by winds from Hurricane Michael in Jackson County. Credit: Doug Mayo, UF/IFAS
“Our analysis did not address clean-up costs, repair and replacement costs for damaged property, medical and veterinary expenses, or any long-term economic effects of the hurricane,” Court said. “We needed to focus initially on developing the loss estimates needed for relief efforts, but we intend to continue to develop estimates for the broader economic impacts of the hurricane. County-level estimates will be released in the very near future.” Nearly 1 million acres of agricultural crops, not including timber, were impacted throughout the Panhandle, Court said.
The economic analysis team calculated crop loss estimates for 25 Florida counties, for commodities that included field crops, row crops, vegetables, fruits, tree nuts, greenhouse and nursery crops, as well as beef, dairy, poultry and other animal products, she said. The most serious impacts occurred in Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jackson, Liberty and Washington counties, which experienced hurricane-force winds of 111 to 155 miles per hour, corresponding to the Category 3 and 4 hurricane ranges.
Virtually all of the state’s cotton crop was wiped out, with losses totaling $51 million on more than 145,000 impacted acres. When the hurricane made landfall in Bay County on Oct. 10, annual harvesting efforts had just begun, and more than 90 percent of the crop remained in the field.
More than 245,000 acres of peanut were impacted, resulting in losses of $22 million.
Field corn, which saw a 100 percent loss on many farms where harvesting was not already completed, had more than 66,000 acres impacted and losses totaling $5 million.
Hay had the greatest acreage impacted – a total of 247,000 acres, with losses of $2 million.
Specialty crops in the Panhandle also suffered significant losses, including $39 million for greenhouse, nursery and floriculture production, $9 million for vegetables and melons, $4 million for fruits and $3 million for tree nuts including pecans.
Field reports indicate that a significant number of livestock animals went missing after the hurricane, including beef cattle, deer, horses and hogs. Most of the animals disappeared from sites with damaged fencing or enclosures. Total production losses for the expected three to six weeks of disruption to animal agriculture operations in the region were estimated at $23 million.
In addition, the Florida Forest Service, a division of the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, estimated Florida’s timber losses at $1.29 billion for pine, mixed upland hardwood and bottomland hardwood timber across a total of 2.81 million acres, in a report released Oct. 19. These figures represent timber that would normally be harvested over several years, Court said, and should not be viewed as a one-year loss figure. Therefore, total timber losses caused by Hurricane Michael cannot be directly compared with agricultural crop losses involving plants that are grown and harvested in a single year, such as cotton.
The UF/IFAS economists concluded that Hurricane Michael was the most serious natural disaster to impact agricultural and natural resources industries in the Florida Panhandle in decades.
Read the full preliminary report:
Mark Mauldin, Washington County Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent, speaks with a producer about his hurricane losses
Hurricane Michael will always be recalled as a milestone in the lives of many Florida Panhandle residents. The course of people’s lives has been altered irrevocably. Depending on the location within the storm’s footprint, the damage was minor to absolutely devastating. Any tangible asset in the path of the venial weather event was subject to traumatic physical abuse.
After the winds subsided, Extension faculty from every corner of the Northwest Extension District stepped out of the sheltering protection of their homes to assess personal damage and begin the recovery efforts for themselves, and the clients they serve. One of the many Extension initiatives undertaken to aid recovery efforts has been the assessment of damage to agricultural crops. State and Federal agencies, the news media, insurance companies and many more are interested in the monetary losses resulting from this category four storm.
Dr. Alan Hodges at the University of Florida’s Food and Resource Economics Department is the assembly point for the data. He provided a survey instrument which was developed in conjunction with district faculty and staff. The internet-based questionnaire was printed out by many who engaged farmers and livestock producers in areas where cellular service was inoperative because of hurricane damage.
“We went to check on the farmers and ranchers in the area to see what we can do to help their situation,” said Ethan Carter, Regional Crop Integrated Pest Management Agent who is based in Marianna, Florida. “All were happy to see us and willing to share their experiences,” he said. While assisting others, Carter’s house was unlivable. It had multiple large trees on the roof, some with piercing branches reaching the floor rendering the home a danger to enter for months to come.
“It was a bit challenging to navigate some of the roads, especially the dirt roads which were really rutted,” said Mark Mauldin, Washington County Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent. “Miles of fences are down, cattle scattered and the hay is wet. It will take a long time for producers to recover from this hit,” he said. Mauldin took his family to a safe location to ride out the storm, but returned to Chipley the day after the storm passed ready to serve his community. Like so many others, he was out of power for weeks, but did not have damage directly to his home.
Many producers in the effected area suffered severe damage to buildings, equipment and crops
Stacy Strickland, Osceola County Extension Director, led a team which worked on damage assessments in Jackson County. Jim Fletcher, Regional Specialized Water Agent from the Central Extension District, flew a drone over field and vegetable crops to collect photo images for spectral analysis assessment which is used to measure the longer term health prospects of crops.
The survey effort by Extension Agents is continuing in the effected counties. The injury to farms, cattle operations, specialty crop production and all other phase of agricultural are being collected to measure the damage and tell the story of Hurricane Michael’s wrath and the indomitable spirit of north Florida’s agriculture community.
To learn more about north Florida’s Extension Agent’s efforts to collect agricultural damage information, contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension Office.
This week’s featured video was published by the University of California – Davis to share the results of a remarkable scientific discovery. Researchers from UC Davis, the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and Mars, Incorporated have identified a native variety of Mexican corn that can fix nitrogen from the atmosphere, instead of relying totally on synthetic fertilizers.
A public-private collaboration of researchers have identified varieties of tropical corn from Mexico, that can acquire a significant amount of the nitrogen they need from the air by cooperating with bacteria. To do so, the corn secretes copious globs of mucus-like gel out of arrays of aerial roots along its stalk. This gel harbors bacteria that convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form usable by the plant, a process called nitrogen fixation. The corn can acquire 30 to 80 percent of its nitrogen in this way, but the effectiveness depends on environmental factors like humidity and rain. Scientists have long sought corn that could fix nitrogen, with the goal of reducing the crop’s high demand for artificial fertilizers, which are energy intensive, expensive and polluting. Further research is required to determine if the trait can be bred into commercial cultivars of corn, the world’s most productive cereal crop. Source: Corn that acquires its own nitrogen identified, reducing need for fertilizer
Thanks to Judy Biss, UF/IFAS Extension Calhoun County, for sending in this video to share.
If you enjoyed this video, you might want to check out the featured videos from previous weeks: Friday Features
If you come across an interesting or humorous video, or a new product innovation related to agriculture, please send in a link, so we can share it with our readers. Send video links to: Doug Mayo
Cotton laid down in the field by Tropical Storm Gordon.
For most row crop growers in Florida, Tropical Storm Gordon had minimal impact. However, in the westernmost part of the state, much of the cotton suffered significant damage. Though the winds were not extremely strong, the combination of saturated soils and winds wreaked havoc on what had looked like a stellar cotton crop.
The western Panhandle had been blessed with ample rains throughout the summer. Prior to T.S. Gordon making landfall on September 3, many farmers were excited about the prospective yields for their 2018 cotton crop. In northern Escambia County, farmers reported rainfall ranging from 7-11 inches. Though the area did not receive a long period of high winds, the combination of waterlogged soils and wind caused a great deal of lodging in cotton that was nearing full maturity almost ready to be defoliated. Canopies heavy with loaded bolls and wet leaves laid down on damp soil and have not since righted their position. The bolls touching wet ground have rotted off the plant. The plants are matted throughout the field. Many farmers have shared their concerns with the difficulty of defoliating a field that has cotton laying across the row middles.
Though the winds from T.S. Gordon died down within 24 hours, the rains continued. It has continued to rain regularly since September 3rd. Not only is the cotton worse for wear, but peanut harvest has been steadily delayed by the rains. Greg Phillips, manager of Birdsong Peanuts-McCullough, said “Peanut harvest in the area has been greatly slowed by the rain.” He estimates that around 7% of the entire crop has been harvested, whereas if the weather conditions had been favorable, 15% of the year’s crop would been harvested by this time. He does report good grades so far, but he is concerned that further delays might cause a decline in both yield and grades.
The Agroclimate image below shows the total rainfall in inches from August 13th to September 25th. It is evident that the western Panhandle and Lower Alabama have received ample amounts of rain, but the story that it doesn’t tell is that all of this rainfall is coming at a time of year when conditions are generally starting to dry out for harvesting.
The image below from Agroclimate provides a good comparison of rainfall totals from the past 45 days to September 25. The map of the southeast on the left shows the historical average rainfall for this time of year The more colorful map of the southeast on the right shows the deviation from “normal” rainfall amounts. In the case of late summer 2018, T.S. Gordon brought in much higher than average rainfall in the areas shaded in blue and purple.
It will take some time to know the full extent of the impact from T.S. Gordon. Crop damage appears significant, but the full effects will not be known until after the completion of the 2018 crop harvest.
Ann Blount, UF/IFAS Forage Specialist talks to cattle producers about the Legend oat variety that her team developed with rust resistance and increased yield. Credit: Doug Mayo, UF/IFAS
On September 19th, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam announced that Dr. Ann Blount has been named the 2018 Woman of the Year in Agriculture. Dr. Blount has dedicated her career to researching and implementing innovative techniques to improve fall forage production in Florida’s southern coastal areas. The award, now in its 34th year, recognizes women who have made outstanding contributions to Florida agriculture.
“I’m honored to recognize Dr. Blount as the 2018 Woman of the Year in Agriculture. Throughout her career, Dr. Blount’s extensive research and techniques have incorporated Florida’s unique natural resources to bolster our agriculture industry,” said Commissioner Adam H. Putnam.
Dr. Blount earned a Bachelor of Science in Crop Ecology from Texas A&M University. She continued her education at the University of Florida, where she earned her master’s degree and Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Genetics. Dr. Blount has since spearheaded research of breeding efforts on physiological aspects of fall forage, specifically: developing improved bahiagrass, evaluating new perennial peanut varieties, and enhancing small grains and ryegrasses.
Dr. Blount joined the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences in 1988, and she currently serves as an extension specialist and professor of forage breeding and genetics for the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy. Dr. Blount uses a hand-on approach to train new and veteran agents to implement innovative foraging and help landowners test new livestock forages and wildlife blends to assess potential use on their properties.
Dr. Blount has made significant contributions to the agriculture industry, such as six plant patents and plant variety protections, as well as 76 cultivars and germplasm releases and forages. She has also written several educational publications, including: two book chapters, 198 refereed articles, 385 non-refereed articles, 22 national and international proceedings, 124 abstracts and 28 refereed Extension articles. Dr. Blount’s impressive forage breeding program and UF/IFAS Extension activities have improved the production and efficiency of thousands of acres of Florida’s forage varieties.
Ann Blount, UF/IFAS Forage Specialist developed a Pensacola cultivar called UF Riata that has les daylength sensitivity, so it has a longer growing season than other Bahia varieties. Photo credit: Marisol Amador, UF/IFAS
The Woman of the Year in Agriculture award is sponsored by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida State Fair Authority. The award will be presented to Dr. Blount during the 2019 Florida State Fair, in Tampa.
Editors Note: Dr. Blount has invested the last 30 years of her life educating livestock producers, county extension agents, and researchers about forage varieties and and forage management. Use the following email link if you would like to send her congratulations on this tremendous honor: Ann Blount, UF/IFAS Forage Specialist.
Visit Florida, in partnership with the Florida Agritourism Association, announced the release of a new mobile app aimed at connecting visitors with Florida’s agricultural assets. Through the app, Florida’s farms, ranches, and vineyards are opening their doors and inviting visitors to sample the abundant bounty and natural beauty found in the Sunshine State’s agritourism offerings.
Agritourism combines Florida’s two largest industries – tourism and agriculture – and allows farmers to open their agricultural land to the public for recreational, entertainment, or educational purposes; to view or participate in activities such as farming, ranching, historical, cultural, civic, ceremonial, training and exhibition, harvest-your-own events. According to the most recent agricultural census by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, Florida’s 724 agritourism operations contribute $15.7 million annually to the state’s economy.
Ken Lawson, President & CEO of VISIT FLORIDA said, “Agritourism has become more and more popular as visitors seek off-the-beaten-path adventures. In 2017, Florida welcomed 116.5 million visitors, many of whom enjoyed our state’s agricultural attractions such as such as u-pick farms, ranches, vineyards, and more. Through the Florida Agritourism app, travelers from around the globe will be able to discover and enjoy authentic Florida experiences offered by our state’s agritourism operations.”
The free mobile app, available for Android and iOS devices, is an easy-to-use tool for discovering and locating agritourism sites in Florida. The app features a comprehensive farm guide, seasonal produce calendar, and a list of more than 100 agricultural events taking place throughout the state. In the app, users can browse venue information, navigate to farms, and RSVP for events. Additionally, if desired, users can create a personalized list of favorite farms and receive notifications regarding those farm’s events and activities.
Lena Juarez, Executive Director of the Florida Agritourism Association, said, “This mobile app is a game-changer for our state’s agritourism operators. It enables Floridians and visitors to find fun activities and events happening on our farms. We encourage users to utilize it regularly to explore Florida.”
To discover more about agritourism opportunities in Florida, go to https://visitfloridafarms.com/ or download the Florida Agritourism app in the Apple and Google Play stores.