State News

Farmers watch as N.C. temps bottom around freezing

Posted April 8, 2009 7:40 a.m. EDT
Updated April 8, 2009 2:59 p.m. EDT

— Temperatures across North Carolina fell to around freezing in a late season cold snap.

The unseasonably low temperatures led farmers to take precautions to protect their budding harvests from dying. A blast of cold April air two years ago set record lows in the mid-20s, and the several days of cold temperatures caused crop losses estimated at nearly $112 million.

This year's freeze doesn't appear to be as deep and won't last as long.

State Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services spokesman Brian Long said Tuesday that strawberry and blueberry growers used either row covers or irrigation to protect plants. Long said peach and apple growers could burn trash to create heat as a means of protection.

Karma Lee of Buckwheat Farm in Apex spent hours on Tuesday in the field to stay ahead of the freeze and protect her three acres of strawberries.

Normally, Lee would keep the strawberries warm by constantly spraying them down with water to form ice. Lee said the ice making process gives off enough heat for protection. This freeze is accompanied by heavy wind gusts, which make the water spray technique useless.

On Tuesday, Lee covered her tens of thousands of plants in a thin blanket.

At Fairview Garden Center, workers covered 15,000 plants including annuals, vegetables and shrubs.

“It is in the back of your mind that you could lose plants,” said Brad Rollins, of the Fairview Garden Center.

In 2007, a four-day cold snap around Easter weekend caused crop and nursery losses estimated at nearly $112 million.

Forecasts from the National Weather Service said while low temperatures Wednesday morning would get down to the 30s, it would only reach that level for one night.