Farmers hoping sudden temperature swing doesn't wipe out crop

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PALISADE, Colo. Area fruit farmers are always nervous about this time of year, not just during harvest. That's because our recent weather could really damage their crops. But it's not necessarily the cold temperatures themselves that could be a problem, instead it's the drastically fast change in temperatures.

Farmer Bob Helman, owner of Alida's Fruit in Palisade, is used to growing some of the most sought after peaches and other fruits during the summer.
Even though it's still December, the extreme temperature shift has the farming community uncertain about what this next season will bring.

"This is extremely unusual to stay this warm late in the fall then turn this cold all of a sudden overnight," Farmer Bob said. "Mother Nature may have thinned some of those of, or she may have not, only time will tell."

The problem is the trees and other orchard fruits need time in between the severe hot and severe cold to become hardy.
If the temperatures get too cold right now, some or all of the crop could be lost.

"If you get to -10 (degrees), if you get to -15, I don't think we have to worry about a grape harvest or a peach harvest," said Dr. Horst Caspari, Viticulturist and researcher at Colorado State University's Western Colorado extension office, and thinks the crop should be alright.

He and his research team do testing to determine the critical temperatures at which damage to the fruit buds occurs.

"The test that we ran last week showed that peaches and grapes are very similar in cold hardiness," Caspari said. "At about -5 degrees Fahrenheit we start to get significant damage. At this point in time, we're still looking good."

Dr. Caspari's research shows nearly total damage in peaches and other fruits if it dips to -10 overnight.
For the local farmers, unfortunately not much can be done.

"All we can do is wait til spring and see what we have when they bloom and, mother nature's going to give us what she wants to," Farmer Bob said.

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