Florida's strawberry industry threatened by climate change
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.
- Hurricanes also present a considerable risk to strawberry production, and climate change is creating more frequent and destructive storms.
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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