Fruit growers monitor peach crop
Snow and cold followed quickly on the heels of 75-degree temperatures during the past week in the Union County area.
Bitter cold temperatures were in the forecast on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings of this week.
The National Weather Service office in Paducah early this week issued a freeze warning for Southern Illinois, Southeast Missouri and Western Kentucky.
Hard freezes were expected on both Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
The weather service explained that a freeze warning meant that sub-freezing temperatures were imminent or highly likely. “These conditions will kill crops and other sensitive vegetation,” the weather service stated on its website.
A freeze warning also was issued last Friday night for the region.
The wintry conditions caused concerns for local fruit growers, who were monitoring the condition of peach trees and other crops.
The cold weather came less than a week before the start of spring, which begins on Monday, March 20.
High of 75, Low of 22
Local weather observer Dana Cross reported that the high temperature reached 75 degrees on Thursday, March 9, in Jonesboro.
By Saturday morning, the low temperature had dropped to 27. The cold was accompanied by a very light dusting of snow in the area.
On Sunday morning, the low temperature had dropped to 22 degrees.
Monday remained cold, with a high temperature of 39. Monday morning also was highlighted by about an inch of snow which fell on the area. As the temperature rose above freezing during the course of the day, the snow melted away.
Tuesday started cloudy and was expected to remain cold, with a high temperature expected in the upper 30s. The forecast for Wednesday was calling for sunshine and a high in the upper 30s.
Low temperatures on Tuesday night and again on Wednesday night were of concern.
The National Weather Service forecast for Tuesday night was calling for a low temperature in the range of 18 to 23 degrees in the area.
The low temperature Wednesday night was expected to be 20 to 27 degrees.
“Fruit trees in bloom or budded out will be damaged by the hard freeze conditions” which were expected Tuesday and Wednesday night, the weather service stated.
“Other similar early spring plants that are ahead of schedule with their blooms and buds will likewise experience similar damage,” the weather service cautioned.
Warmer weather is in the forecast for the area. The forecast posted early this week called for a high temperature near 47 degrees on Thursday, today, along with mostly cloudy conditions.
On Friday, the forecast called for showers and a high near 62. Saturday is expected to be mostly sunny, with a high near 57.
Fruit Growers Monitor Conditions
The past week’s cold weather had local fruit growers keeping an eye on their crops.
The cold conditions followed an unusually warm February and last week’s mild temperatures.
Peach trees in Union County orchards had started to bloom during recent warm weather.
Jeff Flamm, co-owner of Flamm Orchards near Cobden, said on Monday that he had seen peach trees in bloom some 10 days earlier.
Ren Sirles, owner of Rendleman Orchards near Alto Pass, said on Monday that he had seen peach blossoms a week earlier.
Flamm said that the low temperature reached 23 degrees at Flamm Orchards on Sunday morning.
A low in the range of 24 to 25 degrees was recorded Sunday morning at Rendleman Orchards.
Flamm said that while the peach crop sustained significant damage during last weekend’s cold, some varieties had survived the cold.
“As of this morning, we still have peaches,” he said during a telephone interview on Monday morning.
He said that Flamm Orchards has some 10 to 12 varieties of peaches. The local agribusiness has about 260 acres in peaches. Different varieties were at various stages of development. The cold weather has had varying levels of impact, depending on how far along the peaches had developed.
Flamm Orchards also grows strawberries on about four to five acres. Work had been done to protect that crop.
“We’re doing what we can do” to protect crops, he said.
Sirles took a cautious approach to reviewing the damage to peaches which was caused by last weekend’s cold weather, especially in light of a forecast which was calling for very cold temperatures on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Rendleman Orchards has about 80 to 90 acres in peaches.
“We’ve got two more real bad nights” in the forecast, Sirles said Monday morning.
Sirles recalled that in 2007, cold weather froze both the peach and apple crops. So far in the 2017 growing season, apple trees have not started to bloom like the peaches.
“We hope Mother Nature smiles on us,” Sirles said Monday.
Flamm said that unusual weather conditions during the growing season are expected by producers.
“The first part of March can be a wild ride,” he said.