Farmers assess crop damage from recent freeze

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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — The fourth-warmest February on record followed by the deep freeze last week means trouble for several early crops.

It may only be the first week of spring, but some farmers in the East are already counting their losses. Andy McLawhorn owns Renston Garden Market in Pitt County, and he said his blueberry crop took a hit

“We had a lot of the fruit that was in full bloom and starting to bloom,” said McLawhorn. “Those blooms were killed.”

Extreme warmth in February led the bushes to bloom weeks ahead of schedule. Then came the cold.

“The bushes under the trees have some blooms on them so I have a 10- to 15-percent blueberry crop,” McLawhorn said. “The majority of my blueberries are lost to the cold.”

McLawhorn has been encouraged to see the bees buzzing.

If all goes well, he expects to have a peach crop for the first time in nearly 2 years.

Next door at Strawberries on 903 part owner Mike Skinner is feeling pretty fortunate.

“We had a huge crop out here to begin with, but with the cold weather and the wind, I’m guessing maybe 20- to 25-percent loss,” said Skinner.

Skinner is optimistic.

“The strawberry plant is a very resilient plant,” Skinner said. “It’ll come back. It doesn’t look good now, but it’ll come back in the next week to 10 days.”

When they return, an early harvest is expected thanks to February warmth. The berries should be ready for picking before the end of March, about three weeks ahead of schedule.

There is a threat for frost Wednesday and Thursday night but both Skinner and McLawhorn agree they aren’t too worried about it.

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