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Farmers take precautions to protect berries ahead of cold snap

Posted April 5

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— Farmers across central North Carolina spent Tuesday preparing for a cold snap that could harm their strawberry plants if proper precautions are not taken.

A farmer at Porter Farms in Willow Springs said he plans to stay up all night to use an overhead irrigation system to freeze his plans at 32 degrees. The ice will keep the plants warm.

Karma Lee, at Buckwheat Farms in Apex, said she is using a different tactic, but has the same end goal.

"If it falls below 32 degrees we have to worry about frost on the blooms," she said. "Frost will kill the blooms, and if the blooms die, there is no fruit."

Lee spent a majority of Tuesday morning covering her crops to add an additional four to six degrees of protection.

With much of March boasting mild temperatures, the plants are further along than usual, with delicate blooms and more tiny green berries at risk.

"If I didn't cover them up, I would lose several thousand dollars," Lee said.

Strawberry plants produce about $30 million each year for North Carolina farmers. Most are grown on small to medium-sized farms.

Lee has been tending to her 3 acre pick-your-own berry farm for 18 years.

"You just have to get your mind right and now that you're going to have two, or three, or four nights when you're going to have to frost protect," she said.

Lee said she will be up early Wednesday morning to take a look at her crops. She plans to open her farm in about 10 days.

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