Crops in Florida were spared but Hurricane Dorian was still poised to dump big rains in coastal regions of the Carolinas on Sept. 5-6.
Between four and eight inches of rain are anticipated in the eastern North Carolina sweet potato growing area near Wilson, which is about 120 miles from the coast, according to Charlotte Vick, managing partner and director of sales and marketing with Vick Family Farms Partnership, Wilson, N.C.
Since the area has been extremely dry, Vick said the lower end of that projected rainfall amount would be welcome; even with eight inches of moisture, Vick said the crop could handle the moisture.
“(The rain) would help to size our crop up and help to tighten the skin up,” she said. “We actually need a little bit of this rain.”
Last year, Hurricane Florence dumped 10 to 15 inches of rain on the region, and that cut the 2018 sweet potato crop yields, ending the marketing season earlier than normal several weeks ago. That created a rare gap between old crop and new crop supply, Vick said.
For the 2019 sweet potato crop, Vick said harvest began on Aug. 26, about a week later than normal, and potatoes have been on the small side.
“The rain will actually be good; with warm weather and the rainfall, it should actually help size our sweet potato crop,” she said. Sweet potato harvest will continue until about the first of November.
“We’re not expecting (Hurricane Dorian) to be as bad as last year, but we’re not taking it lightly,” she said, noting that more storms could follow.
“We can’t stand eight inches now and another eight inches in a month,” she said.
About 100 miles from the coast of South Carolina, Hamilton Dicks III, representative with Melon 1, Bondwell, S.C., said watermelon fields didn’t sustain any damage.
“We consider ourselves to be very fortunate,” Dicks said. “I don’t think we’ve had a quarter of an inch or rain,” he said. Harvest of the fall watermelon crop will begin in mid-September and continue to the third week of October.
Watermelon fields in the coastal region of Beaufort, S.C., also survived the storm, he said.
“We were real concerned about that because fields are only six feet above sea level and we were afraid of salt water (on the fields) but that didn’t happen,” he said, noting the storm surge wasn’t as severe as predicted.
A few watermelon vines were broken by the wind, but the Beaufort crop also survived Hurricane Dorian, he said.
Crops in Florida avoided significant damage from the storm, industry leaders said.
No damage was reported by any tomato growers in Florida, said Michael Schadler, executive vice president of the Florida Tomato Exchange, “As far as I am aware the storm never made landfall anywhere in Florida and had relatively minimal impact even along the east coast,” he said Sept. 4.
Florida’s Indian River citrus region also dodged major damage from Hurricane Dorian.
“We went out and looked at everything this morning and the packinghouses were unscathed,” Doug Feek, president of DFL International Inc., Fort Pierce, Fla., said on Sept. 4.
Vero Beach citrus groves received about two inches of rain, while Fort Pierce had about three inches of rain, Feek said.
“I did not see any fruit drop at all,” he said, adding that winds were not extreme.
“There may be some punctured fruit here and there, but I don’t think that it is anything enough to be any real concern, so we are in good shape,” he said.
Harvest will start about the last week in September.
In general, he said the industry expects a fairly good crop.
“The fruit size looks a little bit bigger and the trees look more vigorous — I think we are going to have a good season.”
In the early afternoon on Sept. 4, Hurricane Dorian was east of Jacksonville, Fla. The National Weather Service reported the center of Dorian is forecast to move near or over the coast of South Carolina and North Carolina on Sept. 4 and Sept. 5.
The National Weather Service reported Sept. 4 that Dorian is expected to produce the following rainfall through Sept. 6:
- Coastal Carolinas: five to 10 inches, isolated 15 inches;
- Atlantic Coast from Daytona Beach, Fla., to the Georgia-South Carolina border: three to six inches, with isolated nine inches near the Georgia coast; and
- Southeast Virginia: three to six inches.