Florida’s Official State Dessert “Strawberry Shortcake” shortchanged by climate impact

Farmers in Florida have an opportunity to invest in climate change adaptation practices for their unique fruit market production

May 15, 2023
April Ann Opatik, (202) 572-3567, aopatik@edf.org

(MIAMA. FL – May 15, 2023) A new Environmental Defense Fund study illustrates the impacts climate change will have on the $400 million Florida strawberry industry by modeling the mid-century changes in Florida strawberry fields. This report describes and defines four climate and crop models developed by researchers at the University of Florida. Climate adaptation strategies can ensure U.S. farms stay productive in the face of climate change, continuing to support global food needs and rural economies.

“Agriculture has been hard hit by extreme weather in Florida especially, sustaining over one billion in losses from Hurricane Ian in 2022 alone,” said Dawn Shirreffs, Environmental Defense Fund Florida director. “Mid-century climate change will have a big impact on farmers who are growing these delicious red fruits. In Hillsborough County, Florida, where most of the state’s strawberries are grown, growers can anticipate an 11% decline in the crop by 2050, and a 17% decline in early yields by 2050.”

Climate change is having a real impact on U.S. agriculture. Increasing temperatures, water stress, and changes in solar radiation are impacting yields, farming practices, and supply security. This report takes a qualitative scenario planning approach to describe four plausible scenarios with varying levels of overall production and winter yield.

“While there has been a lot of work on the impacts of climate on row crops at global scales, our study focused on something more useful to Florida farmers – the impact of climate change on specialty crops, especially strawberries, at the county scale” added Eileen McLellan, lead senior scientist and report co-author at Environmental Defense Fund.

Florida needs adaptation strategies to mitigate the future effects of volatile weather events and conditions on the state’s agricultural production such as strawberries which are sensitive to changes in temperature and precipitation. Other adaptation strategies include effective shading, diversifying geographic production areas, shifting planting dates, and developing new hybrids – that enable Florida growers to meet these challenges and remain commercially viable.

For more information, see our new report: https://www.edf.org/sites/default/files/2023-05/%5BFinal%5D%20EDF_Florida-Fruits-Veg-2023.pdf.

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