How does this relate to agriculture?
Many Southeastern growers will remember the âEaster Freeze of 2007.â This was one of the latest recorded weather events that resulted in a hard freeze where temperatures dropped into the low 20oF range in the Piedmont area of North Carolina. This freeze severely injured ornamental trees and shrubs, as well as many fruit-bearing plants. It was particularly bad because it came during the peak blooming season for many fruit crops, destroying the potential for developing fruit.
Most of the apple, blueberry and peach crops were severely damaged and yielded very little in 2007. Many blueberry growers had little to sell due to the loss of the fruit-bearing blossoms. Many NC growers also claimed a complete loss of their peach crop. Muscadine grapes were also severely damaged by the cold weather, especially the variety âCarlosâ. In mountainous regions, there was little damage to vines or buds because the plants had not come out of dormancy yet. However, vines in the Piedmont and coastal plain areas were more severely damaged. Not only was there damage to the fruit, but also to vines, as evidenced by long cracks in the outermost layer of tissue. This is because those plants had already set buds, and early fruit was damaged by the cold weather. Overall yield losses in this particular variety of Muscadine grapes as a result of the Easter freeze were greater than 50%. The use of row covers spared most strawberry growers any damaging losses in the Easter Freeze.
|Figure F: Cracked Muscadine Grape Vine
|Image from Connie Fisk
The nursery industry was also subject to severe losses in the Easter Freeze of 2007. The nursery industry is very important to the agricultural economy of the Southeast, and the USDA Farm Service Agency estimated that there were 58 million dollars lost in that one freeze event alone. The damage included lost flowers and buds to ornamental plants, dieback to limbs and leaves, as well as complete death in some cases. Freezing temperatures were compounded by the unusually warm weather (80-85oF) and limited rainfall which occurred just one week prior to the event. Plants had already started to come out of winter dormancy, but were feeling the effects of warm and dry conditions and were experiencing some wilting.
Many homeowners also reported that well-established trees died as a result of this cold stress, and trees such as crape myrtles had severe dieback on new branches due to cold injury.
Some row crop growers were even impacted by the Easter Freeze of 2007. Wheat planted the previous fall was sometimes damaged, and the heads of wheat turned white and died. In addition, some growers had planted corn the week before the freeze. The corn had just germinated, and the cold damaged the emerging seedling. In these cases, it was important to get out and scout fields to ascertain damage that was sustained on a case-by-case situation.