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Warm February with a March freeze could mean trouble for fruit trees


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SALT LAKE CITY — March brought a quick cold with it, and those temperatures are something that fruit farmers are going to pay close attention to.

A few degrees here or there could mean thousands of dollars in lost revenue along with higher costs for consumers. This is the cost paid for enjoying a record-breaking warmth in January and February.

Pear trees aren't blossoming yet, but they do have buds forming on them. Normally this time of year that doesn't happen — normally it doesn't happen until April.

At the last orchard on Orchard Drive in Bountiful, Jack Wilbur is about as worried as he's ever been.

"We think there is about 8 or 10 inches we figure," Wilbur said of the snowfall. "I don't remember a year like this."

It's not so much all the snow and ice on his fruit trees. It's just because of the warmer weather to start the year has some of his fruit starting to bloom.

"Yes, we're concerned," Wilbur said. "These were budding out like this a week ago still in February. We don't usually have this until the end of March or first week of April."

Of course after that unusually warm weather we got this cold snap.

"It's real possible to lose half or more of those apricots," Wilbur said.

You see, Wilbur helps run 3 Squares Produce, a small mom-and-pop-type operation growing fruits and vegetables. His family doesn't rely on this for their living, but he's concerned about those all across Utah who do.

"For the larger growers if they lose significant amount of their fruit you coud really tell that summer at the farmers market. It could mean they don't have as much to sell," Wilbur said.

This means, especially with the drought in California affecting fruit farmers, prices could be higher for consumers.

"Generally speaking it's been crazy everywhere," Wilbur said. "It's been a lot warmer than normal."

When it comes to farming, temperature and climate are everything.

"It also makes you respect the forces bigger than you," Wilbur said. "We can't control everything, and I think in our society we start to believe we can control everything. This is one thing you still can't control."

So, which fruits are in the most danger?

Wilbur says apricots, peaches, plums and maybe pears are all about a month early. Also if the weather drops below 20 degrees it could really kill the crop.

However, apples and cherries are looking good.

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Alex Cabrero


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