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Cold Berries.

first_imgGeorgia’s freaky freezing temperatures haven’t hurt the state’sblueberry crop yet. But if warm weather arrives soon, it couldset up this year’s blueberry crop for significant freeze damagelater.”I don’t think the cold weather has hurt the blueberrycrop so far, but it’s sure setting us up for a dangerous situation,”said Scott NeSmith, a research horticulturist with the Universityof Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.”Right now, the blueberries have received more chill hoursthan they need at this point in the season.”They’ve Gotta Have the ColdBlueberry plants need cold weather to produce blooms and thenfruit. This cold weather requirement is called chill hours. Oncethe plant gets the required number of chill hours, it’s readyto break bud and produce blooms.”If the weather warms up now, the plants are really goingto start blooming fast and this sets up a danger for possiblefreeze damage later,” NeSmith said. “So if we go throughtwo weeks of warm weather, we run the danger of getting earlybloom before the frost damage is over.”NeSmith said Georgia blueberry growers faced the opposite problemlast year.”In 1999, we had a record lack of chill hours, just 200,for the first week of January,” he said. “The plantsweren’t getting the chill hours they needed to bloom adequately.This was a very low number of chill hours compared to the historicalnumber of 400 chill hours for the same time of year.”Today, NeSmith keeps a close eye on the number of chill hoursusing data from UGA’s Georgia Automated Environmental MonitoringNetwork website .Too Many Chill Hours”Here in Spalding County, we have normally accumulated400 to 500 chill hours at this time of year,” he said. “Butthis year, we already have more than 900 chill hours, which isabout a 40 percent increase in chilling.”NeSmith says having too many chill hours is rarely a problem.”This only happens five to 10 percent of the time,”he said. “It’s almost unheard of for us to have this problem.”The largest concentration of commercial blueberry orchardsin Georgia is located in the southeastern corner in Appling, Bacon,Clinch, Pierce and Ware counties, with additional growers sprinkledacross the state. Georgia ranks third in the nation in blueberryproduction with more than 4,500 acres.NeSmith and other UGA horticulturists plan to share their concernswith Georgia blueberry growers during the Georgia Fruit and VegetableConference set for this weekend in Savannah.”It’s a very scary situation because winter has been shiftedback,” he said. “It’s not any one cold event we’ve facedthat has caused this dilemma. It’s the amount of total cold weatherwe’ve been having. The cold hasn’t hurt us so far, but it surehas put us in a precarious position.”last_img read more