Mar 15, 2017
Freezing temperatures threaten Alabama strawberry crops

The threat of freezing temperatures in Alabama quickly shifted strawberry growers from production mode into protection mode.

Producers of both fruits are making preparations to protect their crops from frost and freezing temperatures.

Alabama Cooperative Extension System Commercial Horticulturist Elina Coneva specializes in commercial fruit crops production. Coneva said growers throughout the state are implementing protective measures that best serve their operations.

“Warm weather this winter has brought on early blooms and fruits in some areas,” Coneva said. “It is a critical time for strawberry growers with blooms and small strawberries on the plant. It is also a critical time for peach growers who may already have trees putting on fruit.”

Extension commercial horticulture agent Doug Chapman said all commercial strawberry growers are putting out row covers in preparation for the temperature drop.

“Most growers use one layer of row covering, but some Alabama producers are adopting a practice used further north – covering strawberries with two layers of covering. Using two covers allows growers to protect blossoms and fruit, and to capture ground heat and keep it in the plant canopy at night.”

Growers who use two covers peel the top layer back during the day to allow for better light penetration and gas respiration for the strawberry plant. The top cover will be returned at night.

Gary Gray, an Extension commercial horticulture agent based in Birmingham, said fruit, vegetable and nursery growers are actively protecting tender crops, in preparation for the winter weather headed to Alabama.

“Strawberry growers use both floating row covers or frost blankets as well as overhead irrigation which freezes over the fruit and plants to keep the plants at 32 degrees as long as new ice is forming continually as water is applied,” Gray said. “This prevents fruit from reaching the critical 30 degree point at which fruit freezes.”

Coneva said securing row covers on strawberry plants and making plans to protect peach orchards is essential for fruit growers at this time.

Chapman said each year brings different weather related issues for fruit growers in Alabama.

“Every fruit grower is going to experience a weather related event each year,” Chapman said. “It is something all growers deal with and expect. Fruit growers are good at learning from past experiences and rolling with the punches.”

For more information about strawberries, peaches and other fruit production, visit www.aces.edu. Contact a local Extension office with questions related to fruit production.

— Katie Nichols, Auburn University

Source: Alabama Cooperative Extension System


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