Cold Winter Hurt State’s Fruit Crops, UT Scientists Say

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NASHVILLE — This winter’s cold weather is believed to have severely damaged the state’s fruit crops, University of Tennessee plant and soil scientists said Friday.

Dr. Wade Sperry, a small fruits specialist with UT’s agricultural extension service here, said small fruits such as blackberries, grapes, blueberries, figs and kiwi are most likely to have been damaged.

Sperry said the extent of the damage won’t be known until buds begin to swell in the spring. Crops damaged by winter will not bloom and will bear less fruit, he said.

Among larger crops, Sperry said the most damage is believed to be to peaches, which he expects to lose up to 90 percent of their blooms.

Dr. David Lockwood, a fruit specialist at UT-Knoxville, said a good harvest can be produced by trees if as few as 10 percent of their buds survive.

If many more buds are killed in a late spring frost, however, it could severely reduce crop yields, Lockwood said.

Sperry said cold weather damage is not permanent.

“These plants should be back into heavy production after one or two years, except for kiwi, which takes three to four years for new growth to begin,” Sperry said.

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Contact: Dr. David Lockwood (423-974-7208)

Dr. Wade Sperry (615-832-6802)

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