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By Ryan McGeeney U of A System Division of AgricultureApril 4, 2018
(530 words)(Download this story in MS Word format here.)
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Freezing temperatures moved into Northwest Arkansas early this
morning, posing a threat to many fruit crops now in their vulnerable flowering stages
in the area, University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture horticulture experts
said this week.
The National Weather Service reported the air temperature in Fayetteville at 36 degrees
just before midnight, and dropping to a low of 27 just before 7 a.m. today. Amanda
McWhirt, extension horticulture specialist with the Division of Agriculture, said
strawberries, peaches and blueberries in certain stages of development could be damaged
at those temperatures if not protected against the elements.
“Strawberries have already been flowering in the state for a couple of weeks,” McWhirt
said. “If you have open blossoms out there, and the temperature drops below 30, it’s
essentially going to kill the flower, and you won’t get any berries off of those flowers.
“We’re currently starting to see some bud emergence in blackberries,” she said. “You
may see many of these buds die off before they even get to their flowering stage.”
McWhirt said strawberry growers should cover their crops with row covers or crop blankets,
which will insulate the crops and raise the immediate temperature by as much as 5
degrees. While this is a common practice for strawberry growers, it can prove much
more difficult to protect blackberries and peaches, given their respective plant and
“Peaches have already bloomed in some parts of the state,” she said. “There are some
protection options, but it’s a lot more difficult than strawberries, where you can
just throw a blanket over them.”
She said that growers should scout fields and check crops as soon as possible, and
take whatever measures are necessary and available to protect them through the freeze.
“The concern is that a lot of our crops are at the stage where they’re budding out,
blooming, or have already bloomed, and we’re going to see temperature that can threaten
them,” she said. “In some cases, it may just kill off early bloom, which is a delay
for when the first crop comes off. Depending on the crop, and its stage of development,
you could have some effects on the whole volume of crop, depending on how deep the
McWhirt said it’s impossible to predict how much damage a hard freeze will ultimately
impact this year’s fruit crop. In 2017, a March 18 freeze severely damaged much of
the peach crop in some counties, destroying about 90 percent of the crop in Boone
County and severely impacting Faulkner County peaches as well.
“A lot of early blackberry varieties in the northern counties got hit really hard,
too,” McWhirt said. “But other, later varieties were ok, and still produced a crop.
It basically just delayed when the season started.
“It’s sort of the same thing with peaches, where it killed off a lot of the early
crop, or just thinned the crop naturally,” she said. “It’s hard to say right now what
will happen. There will probably be some losses, but we hope it won’t wipe out everything.”
To learn about fruit production in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension
Service agent or visit www.uaex.uada.edu.
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen
agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption
of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative
Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work
within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas
System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension
and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex,
gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital
or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and
is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
# # #
Media Contact: Ryan McGeeneyCommunication ServicesU of A System Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service(501) email@example.com