Growers Scramble to Save Crops From Freezing - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Growers Scramble to Save Crops From Freezing

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Growers are watching the buds closely at night to make sure they do not freeze. Growers are watching the buds closely at night to make sure they do not freeze.
WASHINGTON- With a warmer start to the season this year, some crops are blooming earlier than usual, which mean growers have to do more to protect those crops from freezing at night.

Some growers have to stay up all throughout the night to not only watch their crops but to watch the temperatures too.  If temperatures dip too low, those farmers have to make sure they take action before the early buds for cherries and other produce freeze.

A warmer start to the season means crops like cherries, peaches and pears can bud ahead of schedule.  Right now, they are almost two weeks early.  That also means more work and expenses for the growers as the nighttime temperatures dip down to the low 2020'snd teens.

"Early springs are nice, but if you have to spend a lot of your money just to get through the spring, it hurts the profit of the whole operation," said Dick Boushey, Vineyard Manager.

When those temperatures get low, some growers use wind machines to pull warmer air and mix it in with the cooler air so the buds will not freeze.  Orchardist Robin French used his Tuesday night to protect his cherries.  The machines make it about four degrees warmer.  They are loud and have to be monitored.

"Most years everything works out, but still you don't get sleep when you have to stay up with those wind machines," said French.

Running the wind machines comes with a high price too.  It takes 10 to 15 gallons of gas or propane to operate one fan.

"That's worrisome because of the expense of running these wind machines and burning fuel, the labor costs, and the risk of losing your crop almost every night," said Boushey.

Growers also use AgWeather Net Stations to keep a close eye on temperatures.  They alert them when temperatures get to certain levels and predict growing seasons.

For now, the growers just hope the rest of the season works out in their favor.

"You try to look at the long range forecast so you can get ready, be prepared for an early spring like this and just hope for the best," said French.

These growers said keeping their crops alive and healthy is a big deal because so much of the economy in this area depends on it.