University of Florida


Optimizing Water Use for Freeze Protection

Sponsor: Southwest Florida Water Management District

Timeline: 9/3/2010 – 2/28/2015


Irrigation is the primary method used for fruit, vegetable and nursery cold protection.  During cold events in recent years the Dover/Plant City region experienced several resource problems believed to be caused by irrigation used for crop protection.  Although most agricultural producers follow best management practices for cold protection irrigation, there are opportunities to optimize this water use. 

Current cold protection recommendations are based on 1960’s modeling for citrus nurseries and it’s not clear if these recommendations are for advective (i.e., windy) or radiation freeze events.  In addition, the generally accepted recommendation of 0.25 inches/hr of sprinkler irrigation has not been thoroughly tested to determine if alternative rates may be effective at freeze protection.  Lower sprinkler application rates may provide adequate cold protection and result in less pumpage required.  Since this recommendation was developed, the irrigation and agricultural industries have gone through many changes.  However, continued review of the recommendations has not been done.  This project will investigate current irrigation cold protection practices with the intent to identify ways to enhance and optimize irrigation for crop cold protection.  This will include current application rates and possible changes to system uniformity under varying events.