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Berry farmers prepare for freezing temperatures overnight

Many farmers in Northwest Arkansas are close to being able to harvest their berries and now they are worried about losing them to a freeze.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Farmers have been working to make sure all their crops are covered in preparation for the temperature to drop below freezing Tuesday (April 20) night.  

“If the temperatures dip much below 26 tonight we could be looking at a total crop failure,” Dennis McGarrah said. 

McGarrah Farms have 75,000 strawberry plants at their three farms in Fayetteville, Lowell and Pea Ridge. In an average year, McGarrah says each plant will produce a little more than a pound of fruit but this year they expect to get a pound and a half, if they all make it through the freeze.  

“We could be looking at losing 60, 75 thousand pounds of strawberries in just one night, so it could be catastrophic,” he said. 

That’s why McGarrah has been covering all the plants he can with roll covers, but the strong winds have made that challenging. 

“We anticipate losing some blooms. As long as we can stay above that 26 mark, we should be all right but once we drop below that it could be really bad news for us,” he said. 

The U of A System Division of Agriculture says if you have already planted fruits and vegetables at home to not cover them with plastic but to instead use sheets, blankets or cardboard. 

Colin Massey is an agent with the extension office and says to make sure whatever you are covering the plant with isn’t actually touching the foliage. He suggests using stakes to drape the sheet over. He also says to wait until all the precipitation is over before you cover your plants and plants in containers or plants in raised beds are going to be more subject to the freezing temperature. 

“If you do have things that are in pots, that are able to be carried versus covering them, if you can slide those around and put them in the garage or protected that’s going to be ideal," Massey said. "If you do have things like tomatoes and peppers planted, you might even consider putting them in a tray and moving them inside if you are wanting to keep them."

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