Spring freeze threatens fruit trees

Jacob Holman says fruit tree buds like these are vulnerable to the temperatures expected Monday night.

One planter told KRCG 13 Monday nightâ??s sub-freezing temperatures will damage his fruit trees.

Jacob Holman said any fruit-bearing plant that has started to sprout will likely be damaged by Monday nightâ??s temperatures, which the National Weather Service predicts could dip into the mid-20s. Some of Holmanâ??s apple, cherry and pear trees have started sprouting, and he suspects many of those buds will not survive the night. How much damage the trees sustain depends on how mature the buds are. Pointing to a montmorency cherry tree, Holman noted its buds have not yet put forth any green leaves for frost to cover. A nearby royal gala apple tree, whose buds have already opened, will not be so lucky.

"Some of them are still in dormancy and have been a little late to bud out, and then some of them are starting to swell," he said. "Those will probably make it, but I would imagine that any of these that have leafed are going to get hit pretty hard."

Holman said planters can cover fruit trees with sheets or blankets or light small fires to ward off frost. Since this is his first year growing fruit trees, he said he is going to take a wait-and-see approach.

Holman, who is a winemaker for the Les Bourgeois winery, said the outlook for grapes on Monday night is a little better. He said this winterâ??s persistent, severe cold means wine grapes have not started budding as they normally would have by now. As a result, the grapes do not have any buds that are vulnerable to Monday nightâ??s cold temperatures.

"None of our vines have actually, the buds haven't leafed out or anything," Holman explained. "They're still in their winter dormancy and so they're going to be able to tolerate this cold."

Missouriâ??s other major crops likely will not suffer any major damage either. The Missouri Corn Growers Association told KRCG 13 soil temperatures are warm enough that one or two nights of sub-freezing temperatures will not be enough to kill seeds in the ground. The planting season for soybeans does not arrive until May, according to the USDA.