Hannover orchard worried about freezing night temperatures this week

HANOVER, Va. (WWBT) – Farmers in central Virginia are closely monitoring low nighttime temperatures, including a hard freeze that could decimate fruit trees that have already begun to bloom.

Work was underway at Hanover Fruit Orchard on Sunday as owner Brian Campbell and his son prepared for another big peach harvest this summer.

Campbell says many trees have already started to flower thanks to the warm temperatures of the past few weeks, but over the next few days he will be praying that his crop survives this cold spell.

“I won’t get much sleep tonight,” Campbell said.

Campbell said he is no stranger to the wild climate the Commonwealth has to offer.

He says that since his father started his family orchard 11 years ago, there have been a few times when sub-freezing temperatures have returned after St. Patrick’s Day.

“Generally we don’t have to worry about the cold as much as we’re going to get this weekend or the next two nights,” Campbell said. “So that’s the added danger with the harvest. It’s going to be well below our critical temperatures.

The Hannover peach grower says that when a flower is already in full bloom, 10% of his crop could be lost if temperatures hit 27 degrees and that could be almost complete loss if the temperature drops to 24 degrees.

Over the next few nights, Campbell will turn on a wind turbine that pushes hot air from higher into the atmosphere through the orchard. Raise the temperature a few degrees, which will hopefully make a difference in saving crops.

“We’ve had crops where from this point on the tree we’ve lost everything, from here we’ve had no losses,” Campbell said. “Such a temperature swing can make a big difference.”

Campbell and his son will also be lighting bonfires around the orchard over the next few nights to generate as much heat as possible around the trees.

“It’s my job over the next few days is to save the crop,” Campbell said.

It’s not just orchards watching for a potential frost, strawberries could also lose out if mother nature lets the temperature drop too low.

While not all of us can light bonfires or have a wind turbine, Campbell recommends that if you have a small tree or plant with fruit, bring it inside or cover it with a sheet.

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