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Warm weather brings out buds, bugs for local farmers

Posted March 2
Updated March 3

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— Unseasonably warm weather has brought the blooms and buds out of hiding, but with colder temperatures on the way, many local farmers are worried about their crops.

As winter rushed headlong into spring, James Barbour’s wheat fields in Johnston County turned into a bed of emeralds.

“It looks good. We got a good looking wheat crop, as good as we’ve had in a right many years if we don’t lose it because of cold weather,” said Barbour.

Barbour has previously lost an entire wheat crop because of early warmth and a late freeze. If the wheat sprouts its heads, which contain the grains, they could soon be doomed with freezing temperatures in the forecast for the weekend.

Early warmth can also create another kind of buzz. Critters like the cereal leaf beetle and aphids, tiny sap-sucking bugs, can become problems sooner than expected.

“We always worry about pests. The warm winters, you don’t kill off as many, say, if it was real cold,” Barbour said.

A state agronomist said he has seen some sporadic cases of pests, but nothing widespread so far.

The bugs aren’t what’s bothering strawberry farmer Myron Smith, who is concerned about the predicted cold snap as his blooming crop prepares to bear its first fruits in about three weeks.

To prepare for the cold, the staff at Smith’s Nursery put the tender plants under covers.

“If we weren’t this far advanced, we wouldn’t be worried about this event this weekend,” Smith said.

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