Fruit crops, including grapes, may have suffered

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 10, 2014

For some, the arctic blast we received this week does not mean much except wearing extra clothing when going outside. However, this kind of weather can wreak havoc on fruit crops. Rowan County strawberry growers are paying close attention to their plants and hoping they can survive through this cold spell.
So, is the cold really that bad? Unfortunately it can be. Think of those poor strawberry farmers. Yes, the temperatures improved slightly later in the week, but those freezing temperatures earlier did some damage. The problem is that the canopy of the strawberries can be 3 to 4 degrees cooler than about 5 feet up where most people are standing. Sometimes 1 or 2 degrees can determine life or death of the plant.
Another crop that may have some damage is our grapes. This past summer and fall, a large percentage of grapes had some fungal diseases. The diseases helped weaken the vines and, unfortunately, this cold weather may deteriorate them further and could cause vine injury. With the growers across the state, these cold temperatures mean serious business. Many have put thousands of dollars in place to have fruits and value-added products ready for consumers this year and the frost can put a serious dent into those pockets.
A common question we often receive is how does a farmer or a homeowner protect their fruit crops? Unfortunately for the homeowner there are not a lot of options that help enough. For grapes we do not have a reliable and economical solution, but technology has improved with strawberries by using row covers. Row covers can help, but are not a foolproof plan. They can only help by a couple of degrees and, as said before, a couple of degrees can help save the plant’s life.
There are other fruit crops that can be in danger of cold injury, such as cane fruits (blackberries and raspberries) and tree fruits. It is best to wait a little longer to prune, just in case some crops received injury during this time. If you prune now you risk the chance of pruning out viable fruit.
For more information contact Danelle Cutting, Cooperative Extension agent, at 704-216-8970.