US: New Jersey growers concerned by early blossom
Nicholas Russo, 69, who tends a 250 acre family farm in Burlington County, with his 88-year-old father and his son Michael, 44, is closely monitoring the buds on their peach trees, which have arrived early this year.
They usually do not flower until around April 20th, but this year warm weather has brought them out early. And now there are fears that a late frost could be enough to cause significant damage to this season's crop.
"This could be a problem for our peach crop this year," said Russo, who would prefer the temperature to be in the more seasonable 40s instead of the 50s.
"If you get a frost, you get a frost and keep on going. Farmers keep on going. We've got to keep on going."
A severe frost could mean thousands of dollars in losses. Their crop insurance would serve as a cushion, but it will not totally prevent losses. They are not alone - New Jersey is the fourth-largest peach producing state, with a crop valued at more than $31 million, according to the state Department of Agriculture.
"If it stays in the 40s and 50s we might be alright," says Jerry Frecon, a Rutgers Cooperative Extension Agent who added that the peach farmers are "certainly a little bit worried."
It's not just peaches that are causing worry, Russo also has strawberries, which he has covered in plastic to protect them.
he also has apples at risk too.
Blueberry plants are also at risk because of the unusually warm weather, which worries the DiMeo family of Hammonton, the Atlantic County town that is the heart of the state's $62.5 million industry.
They are hoping that the weather will remain consistently warm throughout April, otherwise they will be expecting reduced crops, at best.
Anthony DiMeo, one of the owners of the 1,000-acre DiMeo Fruit Farms & Berry Plant Nursery said, "We have never experienced a winter this mild," he said, adding that his family has been farming for four generations. "We are totally and completely at the mercy of mother nature."
This year my tea will have lots of peaches. Love to make pitchers of tea and fill with fresh fruits.
Last year peaches were not good and were expensive. I am so ready.