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Warm Weather Brings Early Crop For Md. Orchards

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Alex DeMetrick 370x278 Alex DeMetrick
Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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WESTMINSTER, Md. (WJZ) — The warm weather that triggered an early bloom of ornamental cherry trees in Washington, D.C. is doing the same thing in Maryland orchards.

Alex DeMetrick reports that has farmers worried.

Farmer Dwight Baugher still can’t quite believe his eyes. Peach and plum trees on his family’s Westminster farm are in full bloom, nearly a month early.

“Mid-April is when we normally would be blooming in peaches and we’re at the tail-end of the bloom here,” Baugher said. “That’s a sign that bloom is done. That’s called petal fall.”

Warmer than normal weather has pushed fruit trees into early production statewide. That means catching up on jobs like pruning, normally done before blooms appear. It’s also made growers anxious followers of weather forecasts.

“If I see a 20-something on that low, I’m going to be itchy along with every other fruit grower on the East Coast,” Baugher said.

Because at this stage, cold kills.

“There’s only a one-shot bloom and we’re into that now and once that’s over and they freeze, the crop is done,” David Martin, UM Extension Service, said.

If cold weather hits, there are ways to fight back. Helicopter and wind machines keep air moving and, along with heat, there is a chance to save a crop from cold but it can cost tens of thousands of dollars a night to do it. According to Baugher, that’s too much monetary risk. He’s hoping the weather stays warm.

“And the good Lord bless us and not send any cold weather,” Baugher said.

Because despite the blooms, cold snaps are more common than heat waves in March and April.

In Maryland, the potential for freezing temperatures and frost extends all the way to May.

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