Jersey Fresh crops unaffected by December warmth
Some good news for the folks already looking ahead to New Jersey's next batch of peaches and blueberries next year: this mild, unseasonable December weather is not hurting the crops' chances.
While your plants and flowers may be confused by the well-above-average temperatures, perennial crops like tree fruits are much smarter.
"We are not hearing very much at all from the growers about damage caused by the couple of days of 70-degree temperatures," said Peter Furey, executive director of the New Jersey Farm Bureau. "As far as commercial agriculture goes, we're okay."
The fact is that crops, such as apples and peaches, require a certain number of "cooling hours" before their dormancy can be affected or broken. For example, apples need an estimated 1,000 hours of cooling time. As of Monday afternoon, they had experienced about 450 hours at Alstede Farms in Chester.
"Because this warm weather came at the front of winter, none of the crops have achieved their cooling requirements," said owner Kurt Alstede.
When the real winter weather does move in, though, Alstede said the farming community hopes it's a gradual process - nothing sudden. Temperature spikes present a risk to crops and can affect their output months down the line.
The biggest threat lies in early spring when temperatures begin to rise. Any sudden dip in temperatures can lead to significant damage.
"Real hot to real cold - that's the bad stuff," Alstede said. "We just don't want to see those big spikes."