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March 16, 2023
By Ryan McGeeneyU of A System Division of Agriculture
(500 words)(Newsrooms: With art at https://flic.kr/p/2onv6fJ) LITTLE ROCK — With the official start to spring less than a week away, winter is throwing
one last curveball at fruit growers in Arkansas and the surrounding region.
Below-freezing temperatures throughout much of the state made an appearance Monday
night and Tuesday morning, with more cold weather on the way, particularly in the
northwestern corner of the state.
The National Weather Service on Wednesday forecast temperatures in the 20s for Washington
County beginning Thursday night, with an overnight low of 22 degrees Fahrenheit on
Sunday. The plummeting temperatures are part of a major storm front expected to enter
the state Thursday.
While below-freezing temperatures are never particularly welcome for many Arkansans,
the timing is particularly worrisome for growers of strawberries, blackberries and
blueberries. Amanda McWhirt, extension fruit horticulture specialist for the University
of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said that blooms are currently visible
on many strawberries.
“Strawberry blooms can be damaged at around 29 or 30 degrees, but a lot of growers
use row covers, so that gives them a few extra degrees of protection when temperatures
dip below that mark,” McWhirt said. “But the other thing that’s happening is that
there are blooms on blueberries in some places, and blackberries have broken bud,”
making the plants especially vulnerable to freeze damage when temperatures get into
the low 20s.
About 200-300 acres each of strawberries, blackberries and blueberries are grown in
Arkansas annually, McWhirt said. While the extent of damage caused by Monday night’s
freeze is largely unknown at this point, growers need to take steps to protect their
crops throughout the expected winter storm, she said.
“Producers can use row covers on certain crops,” she said. “In blackberries, they
can use covers if they’re using the cross-arm rotating trellises. I’m recommending
people put on their row covers now, especially as we’re likely to have rainfall, so
growers need to get those on before it starts raining.”
As much as 2 inches of rain is expected in central and southern Arkansas on Thursday,
potentially triggering flash flooding in several areas, according to the National
Weather Service. Additionally, the likelihood of severe winds of 58 miles per hour
or more is projected as high as 44 percent in southwestern Arkansas, with the probability
of severe hail reaching 29 percent for the state’s westernmost tier of counties, from
Sebastian to Miller County.
McWhirt, who co-authors the Arkansas Fruit, Vegetable & Nut Update Blog with several other Division of Agriculture horticulture specialists, said the key
to protecting budding or blossoming fruits from cold weather damage is to know the
thresholds of a given plant at a given stage and protect them when temperatures are
expected to dip (or plunge) below those respective points. The Division of Agriculture
offers many online resources for growers, including a chart of critical temperatures for several popular Arkansas fruit crops.
“In some areas, especially the northwest corner of the state, growers may want to
consider double-covering — put two row covers on instead of just one,” McWhirt said.
To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension
Service agent or visit www.uaex.uada.edu. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @AR_Extension. To learn more about Division
of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: https://aaes.uada.edu/. Follow on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture,
visit https://uada.edu/. Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk.
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 McGeeney email@example.com @Ryan_McG44 501-671-2120