By Clint Thompson
North Carolina’s strawberry plants incurred some damage during the Christmas freeze event. Fortunately for growers like Austin Wrenn, the consecutive days of sub-freezing temperatures did not happen later in the production season.
“We’re lucky that cold front came through in December and not March. We would be in a very different situation if that had happened,” said Wrenn, president of the North Carolina Strawberry Association.
He said most plants were in dormancy and tolerated the cold temperatures pretty well. Growers in the central and western areas of the state experienced the most damage, which mostly included loss to row covers.
“It was so windy, we had a lot of farms, pretty much every farm, could not keep their row covers on. We saw some damage in certain varieties. Some varieties seemed to hold up pretty well, while others did not,” Wrenn said. “Overall, I believe everybody ended up being all right, but I did hear reports from a few growers that lost significant acreage; they’re scared that they’re going to lose because they see some crown death in those colder temperatures.
“Overall, most growers were all right. Us in the greenhouse world, we’ve got some issues, but our field growers seem to be all right.”
Wrenn said the combination of wind and low temperatures was detrimental to the young plants impacted the most.
“We had some very severe winds on (Dec.) 23, the day before the night when it got really cold. Those winds seem to pull a lot of the warmth out of the plant,” Wrenn added. “The ones that had row covers on for a while seem to have more issues when they lost row covers, because the plants were not acclimated to the cold weather. They were used to those row covers being on. In those cases, we saw more damage.”