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WARMWX300.jpg Submitted by Cliff Pyron on Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:50pm.

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- The relatively warm winter has many people saying, "This is why I live in the south." But that weather raises some concerns among farmers, who say some of their crops are now at risk. "If you'd have come out here last year, this time of a year, you would have never seen this," Cal Lewis said today walking through his Rocky Point farm. "This is a blossom that's 30 days from harvest." Lewis says a few of his major crops are ahead of schedule because of the warm winter. He says his main concern is with his blueberries. "There's a very high level of concern for blueberries mainly because if we continue with this warm weather they will bloom out, and the big concern will be, continuing with moderate weather, they bloom out and then we have a really late cold," Lewis said. Lewis says the weather is a positive for his strawberries, though, because even after a cold spell they are more likely to survive than his other fruit. This is not just a topic among farmers in Pender County. New Hanover County Extension Director Al Hight says he hears from many other area farmers as well. "This year with the earlier bloom and more blooms open you are going to have to frost protect earlier, because you can't stand the yield loss," Hight said. Along with the warm weather came not only an early crop, but also an early bloom for many area plants. That calls into question whether or not we are going to have color for the Azalea Festival. "Even though some of the azaleas seem to be blooming early right now, I think there's going to be plenty of color still left when the festival comes, but don't hold me to that," Airlie Gardens volunteer Kathy Hannah said. If this weather continues, experts say we could be looking at plants being weeks ahead. It's a problem for some, but a possible blessing for others. Farmers hope the mild weather continues for both the strawberries and blueberries. They say an extreme change could mean a huge loss.

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