Monday, January 11, 2010

Feds freeze frost antidote

Losses to American farmers from frosts average in the billions of dollars annually. Peaches, plums, citrus and other crops are regularly threatened by frost in the Southeast. California is also susceptible: A January 2007 freeze there cost farmers more than $1 billion in losses of citrus, avocados and strawberries, and a 1990 freeze that caused about $800 million in damage to agriculture resulted in the layoff of 12,000 citrus industry workers, including pickers, packers, harvesters and salespeople. In 2002, lettuce prices around the country went through the roof after an unseasonable frost struck the Arizona and California deserts.

Farmers fight freeze damage with pathetically low-tech methods. These include burning smudge pots, which produce warm smoke; running wind machines to move the frigid air; and spraying water on the plants to form an insulating coat of ice. The only high-tech solution, a clever application of biotechnology, has been frozen out by federal regulators.

Feds freeze frost antidote

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