Farmers use helicopters to fight off frost

Lou Dessaint talks to reporters about how he saves his crops from frost

Excerpts from a news report from a NBC TV station  in LEE COUNTY, FL 

Note: the news report shows how we use helicopters to protect our crops in Pine Island against freezing temperatures.  The video shows avocados, but Carambola is actually the main crop we grow in Pine Island (however, we protect both with the helicopter).

Farmers in Southwest Florida took extreme measures this week to save their crops from freezing overnight temperatures.

Many farmers did something Friday morning that they haven’t done all season to save their crops.

Farmer Lou Dessaint stayed up for almost 30 hours straight keeping a close eye on his crops.

He even sent up a helicopter to fight off the frost and it worked.

Dessaint called in the big guns to safe guard his crops. It’s the first time this season he had to send the helicopter up.

“We, normally at 38 degrees, turn the water on. If we get down to 36 [degrees] and start to drop, that’s when we put the helicopter out. It’s just a matter of when we put him up. He’s an integral part,” said Pine Island farmer Lou Dussant.

From Thursday night to Friday morning, temperatures dipped between 38 to 32 degrees.

The lack of wind and borderline freezing temperatures created a recipe for disaster.

Therefore, just before 4 a.m. Friday, the helicopter went up and stayed up for at least two hours.

“Once I get out here it’s pretty much stay on until the sun comes up because that’s the most crucial point,” said pilot Mike Haslam, “As the sun light hits it, it causes the dew to flash and it causes the temperature to drop.”

There is a warm layer of air called the inversion layer that hovers.

What the helicopter does by circling over the field is breaks up that warm air and helps prevent frost from forming on the leaves.

“I do a pattern back and forth, a real slow hover about 20 to 60 feet about the field depending on where that warm air is,” said Haslam.

With every pass, the helicopter can help raise the crop’s temperature up to four degrees.

After monitoring his crops for nearly 24 hours straight, the day sheds light on the situation.

“Very minimal frost on the low points of the groves, so it looks like we’re going to have a good night,” said Dessaint.

Dessaint says he doesn’t expect to be out Friday night. However, depending on the forecast, he may be back on frost watch on Saturday.

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