Georgia's weather could hurt blueberries - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Georgia's weather could hurt blueberries

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By Jade Bulecza - bio | email

CLINCH COUNTY, GA (WALB) -  Experts say Georgia's weather this year could hurt two key crops - blueberries and peaches.

The chilly winter has given both adequate cold-weather time to develop.

But the threat now is that extended warm weather will cause the plants to bloom which puts them at risk of being killed by a late winter or early spring freeze.

Clinch County is a land of blueberries. There are between four and 5,000 acres of them. Some of the blueberries are starting to bloom and another freeze could destroy the crop.

"We're a little more susceptible this year because of the high chill we've had in previous weeks," said blueberry grower Jerry Vanerwegen.

These blueberries have an all time record of chill hours according to the grower, close to a thousand.

Only 300 to 400 are needed.

 The southern highbush is starting to bloom and growers are expecting a good season. They're hoping there won't be a late winter freeze.

And if there is a freeze, growers hope it's one that can be controlled. Overhead irrigation is used as protection. The ice coats the crop and releases heat.  

"We get it at night when it drops to 15 degrees, your overhead protection is not going to handle it," said Vanerwegen.

Vanerwegen has been growing blueberries since 1977.

"Since I've been in business, we've had three freezes that were beyond our control," said Vanerwegen.

He says the blueberry business is a high risk but rewarding business and enjoys growing this crop that's good for you.

Some refer to Jerry Vanerwegen, the owner of James Town Blueberries, as the godfather of blueberries. He introduced the crop to Clinch County.


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