For some the arctic blast we received this week does not mean much except wearing extra clothing when going outside. However, this kind of weather can wreak havoc on fruit crops. Currently Rowan County strawberry growers are paying close attention to their plants and hoping they can fair through this cold spell.
So, is the cold really that bad? Unfortunately it can be, think of those poor strawberry farmers’; yes the temperatures improved slightly later in the week, but those freezing temperatures earlier did some damage. The problem is that the canopy of the strawberries can be three to four degrees cooler than about five feet up where most people are standing. Sometimes one or two degrees can determine life or death of the plant.
Another crop that may receive some damage is our grapes. This past summer and fall a large percentage of grapes received some fungal diseases. The diseases helped weaken the vines and unfortunately this cold weather may deteriorate them further and could cause vine injury. With the growers across the state these cold temperatures mean serious business. When tampering with the livelihoods of these growers, many have put thousands of dollars in place to have fruits and value-added products ready for consumers this year and the frost can put a serious dent into those pockets.
A common question we often receive is how does a farmer or a homeowner protect their fruit crops? Unfortunately for the homeowner there are not a lot of options that help enough. For grapes we do not have a reliable and economical solution, but technology has improved with strawberries by learning to use row covers. Row covers can help, but are not a full proof plan, they can only help by a couple of degrees and as said before a couple of degrees can help save the plants life.
There are other fruit crops that can be in danger of cold injury such as cane fruits (blackberries & raspberries) and tree fruits. It is best to wait a little longer to prune just in case some crops received injury during this time. If you prune now you risk the chance of pruning out viable fruit.
For more information contact your local Cooperative Extension Agent at 704-216-8970.