ETX Berry farmers feeling the freeze


POSTED: Monday, January 6, 2014 - 7:41pm

UPDATED: Monday, January 6, 2014 - 7:42pm

East Texas blueberry farmer Nancy Erwin, owner of Rainbow Ranch in Tyler, is taking extra precautions to protect her crops during the freezing weather, much like many other East Texas berry farmers. However, in recent years Erwin say’s going one-on-one with Mother Nature hasn’t been a battle she’s willing to fight, "The last few years when the plants have bloomed, the freeze has killed the flowers, which in turn kills the berries," Erwin said.

Erwin started with five bountiful acres of blueberries on her farm, but over the years those five acres dwindled down to two. "They would be full of blooms and we would be thinking, ‘oh goodness we're going to have a lot of berries’, and then we have a cold snap and freeze all that so we essentially have zero,” Erwin said. And over the years it’s been difficult to keep up, so she’s getting out of the berry business.

What started out as a dream for her future quickly died, along with her blueberries, “When we first started, this was going to be our planned retirement program, and we have since named it our planned losing program, “ Erwin said. And no matter how much you try to take care of your crops, Erwin says you can’t control the weather.

Experts say the cold-dry air can dehydrate the plants, and when the temperatures continually rise and fall, it can wreak havoc on crops. The up and down weather confuses the plants, therefore farmers have to take extra precautions by covering them with plastic or cloth. Bob Wells, of Bob Wells Nursery in Lindale tells KETK, keeping your plants watered even in freezing temperatures can help because the ice on the plants can hydrated them. There are also certain berry varieties you can plant, Wells says,"Plant the correct varieties because some varieties are more 'cold hardy', they bloom later and they will produce better even with the off and on heat and cold spells we are about to have and are about to experience this year."


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