By Clint Thompson
Part of Georgia’s strawberry crop suffered some damage during sub-freezing temperatures over the past week.
Jeff Cook, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources agent for Peach and Taylor counties, said the crop that was not covered was most susceptible to temperatures that stayed mostly in the 20s and 30s since Christmas Eve morning.
“I did just get a text from a guy north of me who had strawberries, and he had some pretty significant damage on his strawberries that were uncovered. I would expect at least some moderate damage on stuff that was uncovered,” Cook said.
Cook attributed the lack of coverage for some strawberries to growers not having the labor force available to apply the row covers.
“We don’t usually have to cover this time of year. If we do, it’s not like a hurry to cover. If you decide you’re going to cover just to get them warm or keep them warm for a couple of weeks, you could do that over the course of a few days with a small crew. But if you’re trying to cover 10 acres in a day, you’ve got to have a labor force. Even our peach guys and pecan guys don’t have their H-2A guys in town right now. Everybody I called said, ‘We want to cover, but we don’t have the crew to put anything out,’” Cook said. “An acre is a lot easier to cover than five or 10 acres.”
Cook described the type of damage strawberry producers are facing at this point in the production season.
“Right now, this time of year, once we plant up until we start flowering, you’re trying to grow branch crowns. You want to have multiple branch crowns. Any little bit of damage on any branch crown you get is going to result in reduced yields and reduced flowering. Any growth we’ve had up until now, we got set back,” Cook said.