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Success of Ice Blanket Questionable for Area Farmers

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APEX — The calendar may say Spring is 10 days away, but the temperature outside definitely feels like winter. Anxious farmers are spending Wednesday checking for damage from last night's freezing temperatures.

If you're driving around and see a field covered with ice, don't be alarmed. It's a typical sight, created in an unnatural way and a common method for farmers to protect their crops from a deep freeze.

By irrigating the fields in cold temperatures, a layer of ice forms on the plants, thus insulating the delicate buds from a brush with death. The big question is, does it work? For one Apex farmer, the ice worked for some plants and not for others.

Ronald Copeland has been growing strawberries for 15 years. He says nothing really prepares you for a hard freeze, especially after a mild winter. Throughout the night, Copeland irrigated his 10 acres of strawberries to protect them. But strong winds kept the water from coating all of the plants. Those plants are likely to die.

"Last night was very typical of a windy, freezing night," Copeland explains. "The worst thing a strawberry farmer can hope for is wind. If it is still, you can get even coverage. You get protection. When it's windy, it's very difficult."

Wednesday night is also expected to be very cold. Farmers will once again turn on their irrigation systems and lubricate the spigots to keep them from freezing up.

It will be at least a few days before farmers will know just how much of their precious crops have been lost.


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