Farmers protecting strawberries from frost

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 6, 2016

By Amanda Raymond

Local farmers will be protecting their strawberries and other crops from the low temperatures the area will experience this week.

A freeze warning was in effect for the northern and central mountains of the state, as well as east across the North Carolina foothills and Piedmont on Tuesday night.

Temperatures fell into the low 30s Tuesday night and are predicted to hit a low of 31 degrees on Saturday.

Joe Hampton, research operations manager at the Piedmont Research Station, said strawberry crops are susceptible to frost damage, but there are ways farmers can protect their crops.

Farmers can use a row cover, which is a thin textured fabric, to cover the strawberries. The cover is put on during the day and captures heat to keep the crop warm during the night.

Danelle Cutting, horticulture and local food agent for the Rowan Cooperative Extension, said farmers will probably keep the row covers on the crop for the rest of the week. She said it may reduce pollination, but the impact won’t be too bad.

“We definitely need the row covers to keep those temperatures up just enough to keep those blooms alive,” Cutting said.

Farmers can also sprinkle water on the plants to protect them from the frost. Hampton said the process of water freezing into ice actually generates heat.

Michelle Patterson, of Patterson Farms, said because of the warm weather some of the farm’s strawberries were already ripe. She said they picked the ripe fruit Tuesday because of the impending frost.

Cutting said other farms are doing the same.

“We’re all worried about it, that’s for sure,” she said.

Patterson said the farm will be using its overhead irrigation system to sprinkle water on the crop to freeze it at 32 degrees.

The picked strawberries are available at the Patterson Farm Market at Granite Quarry at 136 S. Salisbury Granite Quarry Ave.

Both Cutting and Hampton said strawberries are not the only crops in danger because of the frost.

“Certainly anyone who has planted their tomatoes already or flowers — they’re susceptible to frost as well,” Hampton said. He also said crops such as wheat and barley are susceptible to damage.

Hampton said going back and forth between warm and cold temperatures isn’t unusual for this time of year, so farmers are used to protecting their crop from frost.

“It’s just part of growing strawberries in Rowan,” he said.

Contact reporter Amanda Raymond at 704-797-4222.