Southern Illinois vineyards and orchards brace for inclement weather

COBDEN, III. (KFVS) – With temperatures expected to dip below freezing from Friday evening to Saturday morning, some companies are hoping the cold weather won’t kill their crops.

“Cold weather this late in the year is never good. Thankfully this cold spell is going to be short lived, it won’t be in the lower single digits, but it’s still a concern,” said Austin Flamm, Director of Flamm Orchards.

He said there is an advantage to a gel.

“Right now we have a pretty good crop of peaches, we lost a few over the winter. Hopefully we won’t lose a lot, a bit of natural thinning isn’t the worst thing that can happen as long as it’s not all isolated in one area,” Flamm said.

Flamm Orchards is also gearing up for its strawberry season.

“We keep our strawberries under a cloth cover at this time of year. It helps insult them, uses radiant heat from the ground to raise the temperature under the beds by just a few degrees, which in cases like this, a few degrees makes the difference of having a harvest or not,” said Flame.

As for the local wineries, they don’t anticipate many problems with the vineyards.

“The vines accumulate what is called cold heat over time. So in the fall, as it starts to get colder and colder, they will be able to withstand colder and colder temperatures until mid-winter. And then once it starts to warm up again in the spring, they’ll lose that cold warmth,” said Kite Hill Vineyard winemaker Scott Albert.

Albert said a later spring frost is a bigger problem.

“As we move into spring, the risk increases and the temperatures we are concerned about are higher than they will be tonight,” Albert said.

And at Blue Sky Vineyard, Thomas Atkins said the work before freezing temperatures is more important than what they can do now for their harvest.

“Our selection of views, choosing sites at high altitudes. Peaks like you see in the orchards of our region as well as other vineyards. Choosing varieties that are very cold and hearty. Which are well adapted to this environment” , Atkins said.

Both vineyards expect to harvest this year.

For Flamm Orchards, they play the game of waiting to see if any peaches won’t pass this winter.

“I just hope you wake up tomorrow and come out in a few days after that and cut some buds and still see green and life in them,” Flamm said.

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