New Jersey growers dodge freeze damage

03/29/2012 07:38:00 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

New Jersey grower-shippers apparently escaped serious damage from two nights of freezing weather, according to initial reports.

As forecasters predicted temperatures across the state would drop below freezing during the overnight hours of March 26 and March 27, the Trenton-based Department of Agriculture and its Department of Environmental Protection worked to allow growers to conduct controlled open burning or use smudge pots to prevent the freezing weather from harming flowering crops.

Al Murray, the agriculture department’s assistant secretary, said growers sustained little damage.

“Everyone feels we dodged a bullet,” he said March 28. “We feel very confident. In our interviews with farmers, they are cautiously optimistic.”

Temperatures fell to only 31-34 degrees in the state’s southern regions, where most vegetables are grown. Murray said leafy greens and other vegetables likely averted damage.

In the northern part of the state, however, where small volumes of peaches and apples grow, temperatures fell to 24 degrees. However, the temperatures didn’t stay in that range for long and with winds blowing and growers lighting fires, Murray said damage should be minimal if at all.

Most of New Jersey’s peaches and blueberries are in the southern part of state.

Bob Von Rohr, marketing and customer relations manager for Sunny Valley International Inc., Glassboro, N.J., said peaches and blueberries fared well.

“The cold didn’t affect them at all,” he said March 28. “There was no adverse effect. There was no frost around. It was just a little bit chilly.”

Von Rohr said temperatures only fell to 30-33 degrees.



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