Alabama farmers taking precautions as temperatures drop

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April 29 2021 07:00 pm

CLANTON, Ala. (WIAT) — With cold weather hitting Central Alabama this week, farmers are taking precautions to protect their crops.

At Burnette Farms, the arms of a wind machine spun above a peach orchard early Friday morning to prevent frost from covering the fruit. That’s what farmers worry about when temperatures fall this time of year.

“So far we’re in good shape,” said Mike Burnette, owner of Burnette Farms. “And if we lose some, we’re still okay. We just can’t lose a whole lot.”

Burnette has lost peaches in the past, including his entire crop one year. He hopes to avoid that this year, and that’s why he’s using wind machines and covering his strawberries with frost blankets. He’s also known farmers who have used helicopters to generate wind. Anything that prevents frost is a good strategy.

“If the wind’s blowing, there won’t be any frost,” he said, noting that Thursday afternoon sunshine in Clanton might also help by warming up the soil.

Ultimately, temperature and time determine whether the crops survive. According to Bobby Ray Holmes, owner of Holmestead Farms in Talladega County, temperatures below freezing for three hours or longer can cause a lot of harm. Even 30 degrees is manageable. But 29 or below can create a problem.

Despite the challenges, neither Holmes nor Burnette spends much time worrying about the outcome. Both have been farming long enough to understand it’s mostly beyond their control.

“Do what you can, and leave the rest to Mother Nature and God,” Holmes said. “Mother Nature is good to you part of the time. She’s bad to you part of the time.”

“I used to worry a lot about it, but it’s out of my hands,” Burnette said. “I can only do everything that I can do. And it’s up to the Good Lord whether we have a crop or not.”

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