Unpredictable spring temperatures nerve-wrecking for local fruit farmers
HANOVER, Va. (WWBT) -At Agriberry Farm in Hanover, some crops have already begun budding as we set record-high temperatures early in the year.
While many of us enjoy these warmer temperatures, unpredictable weather can be nerve-wracking for farmers.
”It’s a year-round game that you’re working with,” General Manager Pierson Geyer said.
Geyer says fruit needs a healthy dose of cold weather to enter dormancy, which prepares plants to bear fruit when spring comes.
The plants must hit their “chill hour” requirements, which is time spent in temperatures in the 30s, to be able to sprout healthy buds once warmer weather arrives.
“If we’re 30 or 31 like we have in the cold temps coming up with the full moon this week, that’s no problem because they’re still developing flowers, so they can handle cool temperatures,” Geyer said
Geyer says when temperatures fall below 28 degrees is when it can cause concern.
He says they ran into that problem just a few years back when central Virginia saw an unexpected frost on Mother’s Day in 2020.
Agriberry Farm lost two weeks’ worth of retail, totaling thousands of dollars.
“That took out a lot of our red raspberries that were coming on, it took out a lot of our early blackberries, and regionally, it impacted things like apricots and cherries and plums. Many of the Mid-Atlantic growers we know didn’t have that crop that year due to that late frost,” Geyer said.
So, to help prevent that from happening again, many farms like Agriberry have invested in infrastructure to help mitigate potential freezes.
“Whether that’s peach frost protection with a wind turbine that creates inversion and brings hot down on a still night to help get through the cold weather, or just putting high tunnels in that could get you through one cold night, that could save you five to six degrees,” Geyer said.
He says it’s a hurry-up-and-wait process. Geyer and other farmers hope mother nature has no upcoming surprises this spring.
“I’m hoping we don’t have anything under 27 degrees until this coming fall,” he said.
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