Jun 5, 2023 - News

Florida's strawberry industry threatened by climate change

A flat of strawberries in foreground; people in strawberry fields in the distance.

Strawberries harvested at Fancy Farms near Plant City in 2015. Photographer: Mark Elias/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Florida's strawberry industry is likely going to be impacted by climate change.

Why it matters: Higher temperatures and water stress are already impacting agricultural yields, according to a new report from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

  • Strawberries are Florida's second-most valuable crop, behind oranges.
  • Between 2007 and now, Florida farmers increased the amount of acreage dedicated to strawberry production from 6,600 to about 10,000 — but they could be forced to move operations or find other ways to adapt in the coming years.

What they're saying: "Growing strawberries requires temperatures between 50°F–80°F and less than 14 hours of daylight for the strawberries to flower and produce fruit," Dawn Shirreffs, EDF's Florida director, tells Axios.

Driving the news: In 1960, Miami had 85 days per year over 90°. It now has 133, per a New York Times report. Warming is expected to persist.

Zoom in: Strawberry production in Florida is concentrated in Hillsborough County, which encompasses Tampa.

  • The county's increasing temperatures could push it out of the "Goldilocks zone," where it's neither too hot nor too cold for farming, by 2050.
  • Under one scenario in the EDF report, strawberry farmers in Hillsborough County will experience an 11% decrease in yields and a 10% drop in net income per acre by the middle of this century.

Of note: Florida strawberries are a $400 million industry, but California’s is ten times larger and sets the market price.

  • Climate impacts in California and Mexico could therefore affect Florida's industry, but those impacts are still unclear.

What's next: Farmers can try to cope by developing hybrid plants or using techniques such as shading, automation, and aquifer recharging.

  • Strawberry production could also be shifted north to Marion County.
  • For farmers, any such adaptations will involve additional costs.
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