[UPDATE] Helicopters Used to Save Fla. Crop from Rare Chill

By: AP
By: AP


One approach to keeping Florida's crops from freezing will have to wait.

It's been too windy this morning to use helicopters.

Some growers were arranging for helicopters to hover low over
green bean and sweet corn fields. The hope is that they could force
enough warm air downward to keep frost from damaging tender crops.

One farmer in Palm Beach County says he'll try using helicopters
tonight, if the winds calm down and temperatures don't warm up. In
the meantime, he says about all he can do to protect his crops is
get on his knees and pray.

Bringing in helicopters is a last resort, because it's expensive
and risky. It costs about $2,500 an hour to fly one helicopter over
crops. And last week three helicopters crashed within a matter of
hours in South Florida during missions to protect crops from the
cold. All three pilots survived.


Dozens of helicopters are whirring above Florida's valuable and sensitive veggie crops, an unusual approach by farmers worried an uncommon freeze could wipe out their harvests.

The choppers hover low over green bean and sweet corn fields in
the early morning hours to push warmer air closer to the plants --
and, the farmers hope, save the plants from a deadly frost.

Farmers are especially nervous because an 11-day freeze in
January wiped out many crops, from corn to kumquats. Florida is the
United States' largest winter producer of sweet corn.

The stakes are high: in 2009, the value of production of sweet
corn from Florida was $227 million.

The helicopters may be the last line of defense if temperatures
dip below freezing as expected Tuesday night (12/14).

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