By Clint Thompson
The cold temperatures sweeping through the Southeast this week could impact North Carolina’s strawberry plants, which have already begun flowering.
Austin Wrenn, president of the North Carolina Strawberry Association, discussed the impact that temperatures in the 20s could have on his and fellow farmers’ crop.
“We’re supposed to get below freezing the next two or three nights. We’ve got a lot of growers around us with pretty significant flowering in their fields, which is not good since we’re about two weeks early on a lot of things. We’ll see how well we can protect the flowers and maybe have an early season, we’ll see,” Wrenn said.
“I would say in general most of our growers are about two weeks ahead of schedule, which is maybe a good thing and maybe not a good thing. It all depends on what type of frost events we have coming up this spring. If we have a pretty heavy frost and lose a lot of the flowers that are on the plants right now, we could see some significant losses by the growers. If we have a pretty mild spring and we stay in the upper 20s, we should be able to maintain a lot of the flowers and may have some early fruit production.”
Row covers remain an important management option for growers trying to protect their crop against sub-freezing temperatures and high wind speeds. Growers need to protect their crop at all costs, especially as plants have started to bloom following a warm February.
“Not all growers use row covers, but the ones that decide to use row covers instead of overhead frost protection, most that I have spoken with have already pulled their covers and they’re ready. There are a few that I think are riding it out that may not want this early fruit. It just depends on what varieties you have. But we are about to the point that most growers start trying to save these flowers,” Wrenn said.
Wrenn said strawberries in his region usually are ready to be harvested around the third week of April.