Warm weather could endanger crops at Eckert’s Farm

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BELLEVILLE, IL (KPLR) – A sunny, snow-free day certainly beats shoveling the sidewalk on a cloudy day. But the weird winter is confusing some of the fruit crops at Eckert’s Farm, where the owners hope Mother Nature gets back to her normal self in short order.

“Every year we’re worried that we’re going to lose the entire crop,” said Chris Eckert, company president.

Eckert said the growing season is running about three to four weeks early. Some plants are already flowering and budding. And if nature decides to return to winter temperatures in the 20s, it could be devastating for some crops.

“As plants come out of dormancy and start to grow, they become more and more sensitive to frosty nights,” Eckert said. “It’s especially true for our smaller crops—say like strawberries, blackberries—those crops tend to react a little more quickly than other crops like peaches and apples.”

Eckert said they can cover the strawberries and blackberries with blankets or spray water on the plants to protect them from frost.

“I would anticipate a lot of sleepless nights between now and May,” he said. “May 1 is our actual frost-free date, so we got a long way to go between now and May 1 and things like strawberries and blackberries, where we have to put water on them and do anything like that, those are nights we have to stay up all night.”

On a different weather front, Eckert said the lack of moisture isn’t a concern just yet. He said there was enough rain in the fall and the outlook for March and April looks good.