Late freeze threatens Georgia's early-blooming crops

Billions in agriculture at risk thanks to cold snap

ATLANTA – Georgia’s Agriculture Commissioner is worried about sub-freezing temperatures damaging the state’s No. 1 crop.

And he’s not talking about peaches.

“We are extremely concerned about what affect the freezing temperatures forecasted for overnight and Wednesday morning could have on our blueberry and peach crop,” said Commissioner Gary Black. “We have heard estimates as high as 60 percent of the rabbit-eye blueberries and even some portions of the highbush crop could be in harm’s way.”

Cold temperatures moved in Tuesday night, and many places in Georgia experienced temperatures in the 20s. A freeze warning lasted until 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Temperatures are only expected to rise into the mid 40s on Wednesday, and they are expected to drop again Wednesday night and Thursday morning. Highs are expected to be in the 50s by Thursday.

“Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done to help our farmers at this point other than pray for warmer weather,” Black said.  “We will be joining several groups from all over south Georgia as they pray for the Lord to protect us from this potentially devastating late freeze.”

On Tuesday night, 11Alive's Duffie Dixon traveled to Jaemor Farms in northeast Georgia where Drew Echols worked to protect his 140 acres of peach trees and strawberries. The trees' blooms, which each mature to become a peach, were already opening. He also worked to tarp and irrigate his blossoming strawberries, hoping to insulate some of the warmth. 

Echols's work appeared to pay off, he said on Wednesday that while some of those peach blooms died, the tighter buds looked intact. Vidalia onion growers also seemed to escape major damage.

The biggest risk is said to be for blueberry farmers. That fruit has already formed on the bushes, according to the state agriculture department. 

The hope is that the overnight freeze Wednesday doesn't last for too long and it warms up quickly Thursday morning.

© 2017 WXIA-TV


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment