US (LA): Nurseries face challenges following Hurricane Laura

Louisiana nurseries are facing several challenges following Hurricane Laura, including damaged structures, lost production time and power outages.

The storm’s effects are especially noticeable at the numerous nurseries in and around the Forest Hill and Glenmora communities in rural southwestern Rapides Parish.

“It was a very hard hit for our industry, as it went through the heart of Louisiana’s nursery industry,” said Jeb Fields, LSU AgCenter commercial horticulture specialist.

A weather station at the AgCenter Dean Lee Research and Extension Center near Alexandria recorded wind speeds as high as 79.1 mph during the hurricane. Those strong winds knocked down trees and destroyed shade and poly houses at some central Louisiana nurseries, Fields said.

Some wells and other equipment were damaged when the electricity went out, said Michael Polozola, a horticulture agent for the AgCenter Central Region.

Nurseries have had to spend several days using generators to power their watering systems. Most Forest Hill nurseries now have electricity, Polozola said, but many others are still relying on generators because they’re in outlying areas where it could take longer for service to be restored.

As for crop loss, “most woody landscape plants should not be impacted greatly,” Polozola said. He added, however, that one Forest Hill nursery’s poinsettia crop may be affected.

“After visiting with several nurseries, the consensus is that the main loss is time,” Polozola said. “I would say on average, about two to three weeks of time have and will be monopolized for preparation and recovery.”

Before the hurricane hit, workers removed plastic sheeting from greenhouses to prevent winds from ripping it off, Polozola said. They’re now having to replace the plastic and reposition plants that were blown over.

These time-consuming tasks come as nurseries are busy potting plants for fall sales.

“It is hard to attach a dollar value to that lost time since it varies by the scale of the nursery,” Polozola said. “But I would say it is anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000, depending on the size and who you ask.”

Nurseries in the Florida Parishes — Louisiana’s other major nursery production region — fared better. Fields said there is “not much damage at all.”

Some Florida Parishes nurseries have sent generators to their counterparts in Forest Hill, and more help was expected to arrive from Mississippi and Alabama, according to the Louisiana Nursery and Landscape Association.

Nurseries in southwest Louisiana sustained “a good bit of damage,” Fields said, but the full extent is not yet known.

Source: LSU AgCenter (Olivia McClure)


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