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Cold weather affects crops

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- What looked to be one of the warmer winters in quite some time took a drastic turn early Sunday morning. As temperatures dipped into the mid-20's the extreme change may have had area farmers in a cold sweat.

"The strawberry guys, the blueberry guys do have the ability to frost protect which certainly makes a difference but if they got temperatures into the low 20's they have problems because the frost protection won't completely protect them from that," said Al Hight, the New Hanover County Extension Director.

Temperatures early Sunday morning registered as low as 25 degrees in Wilmington. With the wind it may have felt like 10 degrees. It was a cold spell farmers were hoping to avoid.

Hight says an extreme temperature drop especially effects those who farm strawberries and blueberries.

"Based on what I've heard and seen there is some potential for some injury on the fruit," said Hight. "Probably not a total loss or anything but you'll probably have some distorted fruit."

Strong winds also have a negative impact on the fruit.

"When you have wind above about 5 miles an hour that starts to distort the patterns where the sprinklers are putting out the water," said Hight. "That can really wreak havoc on the ability to provide enough water to freeze around that fruit and those blossoms to protect them."

Hight says the key to defending fruit from the cold is that frost protection. He says anyone without a frost protection system on their fruit probably had significant damage from the weather.

Even for those with protection, they are hoping a stretch like this doesn't happen again.

"One night like last night has some potential to be damaging but if you get 3 or 4 nights like that, that's when it really gets bad," said Hight.

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