Experts advise the
use of frost drop cloths to protect fragile plants in these cold
The practice is
beneficial, unless you have 68 acres of blueberry bushes to protect. As East Texas
News found out, local blueberry growers are working hard this week to protect a
multi-million dollar crop from freeze damage.
At Mill Creek Farm in Nacogdoches
County, blueberry buds are just a few weeks away from turning into fruit.
Mary Boutwell, the office manager
for Mill Creek Farm, said this part of the blueberry plants' growth is a "very
critical stage - probably the most critical stage."
"This is not good timing for this
to come," Boutwell said.
Boutwell was about
the only one awake Monday morning. Blueberry managers and crews slept in. They
spent last night until just past sunrise Monday in the fields overseeing the
frost protection of thousands of bushes.
Pointing to a photograph,
Boutwell said, "This is an aerial view, and each one of these is a sprinkler."
They're turned on
just prior to freezing temperatures. Cade Vandyke, a frost protection crew
member, has the next shift, whenever it begins.
"It could even be
four o'clock in the morning," Vandyke said. "It's just you have to wait around
and wait around for the temperatures. It's just really unpredictable."
The timing is
critical. Sprinklers are turned on just prior to freezing. About 3,000 gallons
of water per minute are used to build ice coats around the tender buds.
"The ice actually
insulates them keeping them from getting any colder than 32," Boutwell said. "The
earlier stages you can get down to 25 or 28 degrees, but the stage the blooms
are in right now it's 30 degrees."
important in the protection of the blueberry harvest during a cold snap is the
wind. If it's too windy tonight it could blow the water away from the blueberry
Right now, workers are confident the extra
measures they're taking will assure a substantial crop for this summer.
Mill Creek Farms sells up to 500,000 pounds to
a broker who supplies grocery stores all over Texas. The only direct-to-public
sale comes the second weekend in June during the Nacogdoches Blueberry Festival.
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