Farmers Work to Protect Strawberry Crop

Saturday, March 11, 2017 | 3:03pm

Nashville—The bad news for Tennessee’s strawberry farmers is that they’re not going to get much sleep this weekend. They’re going to be cold, and they’re going to need a lot of help in their fields. The good news is that they’re well prepared to save their crops despite an impending hard freeze.

The current statewide forecast for Tennessee, depending on location, is for frigid temperatures to last through the weekend. The forecast is for a low of 25-30 degrees tonight and Sunday night with threats of sleet, snow and ice thrown into the mix. This scenario wouldn’t be unusual for early March, but an unseasonably warm winter launched Tennessee’s strawberry crop into early growth and bloom. Unprotected berry fields could see significant loss.

Strawberry blooms begin to experience stress when temperatures hit about 30 degrees. For strawberry crops in full bloom, being subjected to a 28 degree temperature for even 30 minutes results in about a 10 percent kill. There will be a 90 percent kill when strawberries are exposed to temperatures that hover around 25 degrees for 30 minutes.

Strawberry growers will protect their fields through a laborious process, covering each row with a heavy cloth. If the daytime is sunny, safely above freezing temperatures and without cold winds, the row covers are removed so that plants and soil can soak up warmth. Covers are then reapplied in late afternoon. As long as this weekend’s forecast doesn’t deteriorate further, Tennesseans can still look forward to a good local crop.

A few other fruit crops may also be impacted by the weekend chill, and are harder to protect.  Fruit tree growers, particularly those who grow cherries and plums, may already have some blooming trees which could be affected.

Statewide directories of strawberry growers and farmers markets are available at the Pick Tennessee Products website. The Pick Tennessee mobile app allows users to search for nearby strawberry patches, as well as markets where local berries are sold.

The following Tennessee strawberry and other fruit crop growers are recommended for media calls and farm visits:

West Tennessee
Green Acres Farm
Denton Clay Parkins
158 Medina Highway
Milan, TN  38358
Phone: (731) 686-1403

Falcon Ridge Farm
Ray or Bart Gilmer
22630 Highway 18 North
Toone, TN   38381
Phone: (731) 658-5200

Middle Tennessee
Batey Farms
Brandon Whitt
3250 Medical Center Parkway
Murfreesboro, TN  37129
Phone: (615) 848-4178 or (615) 890-1608

Bradley Kountry Acres & Greenhouse
Mike & Cathy Bradley
650 Jake Link Rd
Cottontown, TN   37048
Phone: (615) 325-2836 or (615) 335 - 9310

Shade Tree Farm
Tom Head
2087 Kinneys Road
Adams, TN   37010
Phone: (615) 696-2915

East Tennessee
Fruit and Berry Patch
J. Dennis Fox
4407 McCloud Road
Knoxville, TN  37938
Phone: (865) 922-3779 (865) 385-8654 or (865 92-b-e-r-r-y)

Buffalo Trail Orchard
Phillip Ottinger
1890 Dodd Branch Road
Greeneville, TN  37743
Phone: (423) 639-2297