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January warmth concerning to mountain fruit tree farmers

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    HAYWOOD COUNTY, NC (WLOS ) — A brief January thaw gives all brings a chance to stretch out and enjoy the outdoors. But if it lasts too long, it can impact fruit trees and plants. The warm temperatures can have negative effects.

So far, workers at KT’s Orchard in Canton say the apple and peach trees are in good shape. But there are signs of what could happen, if it stays too warm for too long.

Howard Taylor watches his apple trees carefully. Temperatures up or down can make all the difference in the fruit they’ll bear. So far, he says they’re faring okay with January days reaching into the 60’s.

“Most of the apple trees, 850 to 1,200 chilling hours,” Taylor said. “We haven’t achieved that yet. So, they’re not going to break dormancy.”

If the heat continues though, his peach trees are more sensitive.

“A couple weeks warm weather, bam, they’ll bloom and then you get one night, Sunday night, 24 degrees, that will kill any bud.” Taylor says.

More vulnerable fruit on the orchard tells the story of too warm, too longpluot trees that started to bloom.

“If you have a killing frost after that they’re gone,” Taylor says.

He has rhododendron called a honeysuckle breaking dormancy.

“That bud’s dead,” he points out, “And if that was a fruiting bud then you would have lost that fruit.”

What Taylor says is needed is sustained cold to keep trees and plants dormant, no January blooming.

The warmth is making a muddy mess for cattle farmers too.

“It’s hard once you get off the paved surfaces or gravel surfaces into the pastures. You really make a mess trying to feed those animals,” says NC State Extension Livestock Agent Ethan Henderson.

Extension agents advise cattle farmers to pick individual spots to place hay and corn silage.

Back on the orchard Taylor will take it day by day hoping for cold, knowing he has some control over things like bugs. but not over Mother Nature.

“You can control those with spray. I have no control over the weather though,” Taylor says.

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