Warm Temperatures Have Orchards Gearing Up - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Warm Temperatures Have Orchards Gearing Up

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BENTON COUNTY, Wash.- Warm temperatures have some orchardists gearing up for frost to protect millions of dollars of crops.

The balmy temperatures lately mean apples and other crops from orchards are already starting to bud, which could cause huge crop losses if farms aren't ready to deal with the expected frost.

Keith Oliver's been through it before.

"When the cold weather come at the right time when the buds are sensitive, we need to be ready," Oliver, a well respected grower with Olsen Brothers near Benton City, said.

Warm temperatures mean apples are already starting to bud, but the frost season hasn't hit.   That could spell doom for apple growers not prepared for a sudden cold.

Growers like Olsen Brothers are getting their heating gear ready.

"We have to, the investment in these orchards is so great and our cost of growing the orchards is so great we can't afford to lose a crop to frost," said owner Larry Olsen.

The gear should allow orchardists to survive overnight frost, even if the apples are already starting to mature.  

Windmills are meant to circulate warmer air that hovers above orchards through the fruit and if that isn't enough, orchards like Olsen Brothers can light heaters around the edge of their crops.

"If the weather gets cold enough it could kill the cells in the flowers and it will kill the flowers and if the flowers are dead, you don't get an apple," Oliver said.

"We've been growing apples for 35 years.   There are cold years and there are warm years," Olsen said.

At Olsen Brothers, they say they're prepared.

Experts say an about six-week period starting in March is the key frost season that could spell doom if some farmers aren't prepared.

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