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Temperature Drop Could Result in Heavy Losses for Farmers

Area farmers planned to spend Thursday night monitoring their crops as the temperature was expected to fall below freezing.

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BENSON, N.C. — Fred Miller is working against the clock and nature's plummeting temperature.

Miller is using a heavy-duty cover to shield his strawberry crop at Hilltop Farms in Wake County from the predicted below-freezing temperatures forecast for Thursday night and possibly Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

He has about 12,000 strawberry plants on his 30-acre farm that he planted last October.

"We're going to cover them and protect the investment," Miller says. "You know, they're just weeks away from being ripe."

Myron Smith, who owns Smith's Nursery in McGees Crossroads, is another strawberry farmer keeping an eye on his crop.

"We frost-protected over the years as late as April 20, 22," he says as he anticipates a long night monitoring his crops.

He has about three and a half acres of his farm dedicated to strawberries. He says if the weather had stayed warm, he could have taken them to market ahead of schedule.

But depending on what happens over the next few days, farmers like Miller and Smith could lose big in revenue. One farmer told WRAL he could potentially lose $10,000 in revenue.

Since March 19 when freezing temperatures were last recorded, the weather has been warm and many crops are blooming. Some are three weeks ahead of schedule.

"We've had such good weather for the last two weeks," he says. "You kind of get in this mood for spring. The strawberries are growing. People are coming out and asking for strawberries and when they'll be ready. This sets you back."

Heavy-duty covers can add anywhere from 5 to 8 degrees to the crop's insulation. And with it feeling more like winter than spring, 4 or 5 degrees can mean the difference between having a bumper crop or losing an entire season worth of hard work.

"I've got to keep it above 30 (degrees) to keep the blooms from dying," Miller says.

"It's a lot more investment by having to cover and stay up all night," Smith says. "The more money you put into it, the less you're making."

Farmers have a couple of options when it comes to freeze protection. They can cover the crops or water them down.

Smith says the predicted high winds would affect the irrigation option. Because of the wind, some crops would get more water than others.


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