Temperatures Continue to “Average Out” Below Seasonal Norms Into First Week of February (Sat., Jan. 31, 2015)

— Written By Barclay Poling
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Good afternoon!

Last weekend (1/24-1/25) we talked about how, “It looks like that  on the whole for  the next couple of weeks the temperatures will remain below the seasonal averages,” and sure enough, that was the case this past week. At Clayton Central Crops this morning, we had a low in the strawberry canopy of 19 F. A year ago today (1/31), we hit a low of 22 F at this same location. Last year we experienced some 70’s in the first week of February (same location), but this coming week promises to be relatively c-c-cold with canopy minimums in the low 20s on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to my Skybit. And, we are only looking at a high of maybe 56 F for the whole week! Last year we had 2 days in the 70’s. From a  crop hardiness view, this is all very good news! Early February daytime highs in the 70s serve to de-harden the crop. Temperatures below seasonal averages in early February will help to keep the strawberry crop in a nice holding pattern so that you can complete winter clean-up (crop sanitation) chores over the next 10 days or so. I hesitate to say two weeks because I recall how on one occasion many years ago we did an extension on-farm demonstration of some equipment designed to brush off the dead foliage (same principle as a street sweeper), but what we did not count on in this mid-February test at The Vollmer Farm, Bunn, NC, was that “new leaves” had already broken from the crown! I don’t think the mechanical brush/sweeper got more than 100 ft down the row and I yelled out to Farmer John, “Stop!”  The brushing of the canopy was “too much” and the brushing motion was causing visible injury to the undersides  of succulent new leaves. Anyway, the point of this story is that you don’t want to get caught outside the “dormant season window” for doing winter clean up chores, especially with a mechanical brush. Remember, as these winter days get longer,  the strawberry plant can very quickly shift gears with just several days of warmer temperatures. But, for now, I don’t see those warmer temperatures “happening” for at least another week. Tomorrow, we will issue the weekly Outlook, and that will give us some very expert guidance on what  to expect over the next two weeks in VA-NC-SC-TN.

Figure 1. In  transition piedmont/coastal plain areas like Clayton in Johnston County, NC, strawberry plants will stay in a nice holding pattern this coming week in February, with highs only in the 40s/50s and even some low 20’s on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. Daytime highs are also “cool” and may only be in upper 30s at Clayton location next weekend. These extra chilly mornings like today are ideal for what Clyde Gurosik calls “CLEAN BURN of premature flowers on properly acclimated, winter hardy plants. The cold burn appears to stop at the flower vs botrytis growing back down the petiole to the crown.” (email from Clyde Gurosik on Jan 24)

No need for covering up again for temperatures in upper teens and 20s

I am personally relieved that we are not in a roller coaster style winter where there can be significant issues with crop de-hardening by this juncture in winter. A grower asked me earlier this week from Margarettsville, NC (below) about the possible need for a row cover this morning (he was expecting 19 F this morning). I explained that the crop  is still quite dormant, and can  tolerate temperatures into the low teens at this stage without damage. However, in other years with warmer temperatures in January (i.e. lots of 70s), we have experienced serious crown injury when temperatures then suddenly plummeted into mid-teens. In roller coaster years you really need to be prepared to move quickly to recover. Fortunately, we did not have a roller coaster January this year.


Warm ocean temperatures in west are influencing colder temps in East

So, what exactly is going on with the weather this winter? From a professional meteorologist this past Thursday I learned that warmer ocean temperatures in the west are “amplifying” the  west coast warm high pressure ridge. And,  through what meteorologist call “teleconnections” it tends to cause an intensification of a large scale cold upper level trough in the east.

hgtanomaly-usa-201401Figure 2. Example of this situation (intensification of a large scale cold upper level trough in the east) that occurred last January is at: http://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/cmb/sotc/drought/2014/01/hgtanomaly-usa-201401.gif

See http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/data/teledoc/teleintro.shtml for teleconnection info

Editor’s footnote:  I don’t know if you are following the California drought situation that closely, but virtually no rain has fallen from Sacramento north all month. They are in an historically unprecedented situation. In southern CA the precip has been a little better, so at the  least drought  is not getting worse there for the moment. Ocean temperatures still 5 – 10 degrees above average all along the CA coast. Warm ocean temperatures disrupts the marine layer which keeps CA coastal regions cool in the summer  (summer season strawberry production in CA is possible because of those cool coastal waters). If the ocean temps remain high it will be a long hot summer in CA which will cause even greater than normal evaporation rates. 

State by state AWIS forecast for the coming week:

North Carolina: AWIS NC Jan 31 to Feb 7

South Carolina: AWIS SC Jan 31 to Feb 7

Virginia: AWIS VA Jan 31 to Feb 7

Note how cold it will be on Tuesday morning in western VAwestern va 7daytemp.at.6Figure 3. Very cold in western VA on Tue, 2/3

Tennessee: AWIS TN Jan 31 to Feb 7

Kentucky: AWIS KY Jan 31 to Feb 7

Kentucky Grower Reports:

Through the week this week I have received a number of very helpful updates from Danny Van Meter – you may recall he submitted photos of his crop in Kentucky this past week. I asked him to take submit some photos of crowns without cold protection in early January when temperatures dropped to 0 F.

 danny uncovered to 0

Fig. 4a. An uncovered Chandler plant during the January arctic clipper (low of 0 F) showed some darkening in the upper crown area. An uninjured crown would like the one shown in Fig. 4 b.

danny coveredFig. 4b. No cold injury occurred to Chandler plants that had row cover protection – uninjured strawberry crowns have completely white centers.

Many of you had questions about Danny’s cropping history this season, and he has very nicely prepared these summary reports: Planting log 2014 per Poling questions 1-24-15

Also, Danny sent this recent picture of his Sweet Charlie plants (Clarkson, TN)

Sweet Charlie photoFig. 4c. Danny commented that these Sweet Charlie had excessive growth last fall. The were set 9/10/15. He said that this was without any mustard cover crop or meal with only 60 units of N pre-plant.

Danny  also sent this update on GDD accumulation, and he wrote:

“Thought you may be interested in this information. As you can see, we were right on target (600 GDD) for Chandler. The extra growth we had this year may be due to many factors, but I believe the southern slope that we planted on has a greater impact than I anticipated. This GDD calculator is located http://adstest.climate.weather.com/outlook/agriculture/growing-degree-days/42726

Sep. 10 – Dec. 10

2014 = 580.0 GDD

2013 = 681.5 GDD

Average** = 465.5 GDD

Danny Van Meter

Maryland: AWIS MD Jan 31 to Feb 7

Single digits in many Northern MD locations on Tue, 2/3, as well as Fri, 2/6. Growers in such cold areas as northern MD will definitely want to keep those row covers ‘ON’ this week

MD lows

Will you be prepared for late Feb/early March Freezes? ….NCSA publishes its Resources for Frost/freeze Protection

fulks-sunset low resFig. 4. Last year we had some very serious freezes across the Mid-south in late February and again in March. Will you be ready? The NCSA has just published a valuable reference guide (see below).

The NC Strawberry Association has just published a nice annual update on Frost/Freeze Protection Resources in its January/February 2015 newsletter, and they noted that you can contact ZedX, Inc for a SkyBit subscription:

ZedX, Inc., 369 Rolling Ridge Drive, Bellefont, PA 16823, 800-454-2266, info@skybit.com, www.skybit.com

This is also the time of year when you need to make extra sure that you have enough row covers on hand for what could still be a wild ride with the weather in the 2nd half of February and early March. The NCSA’s Resource page in this last newsletter lists quite a number of row cover suppliers! You may contact the NCSA to learn about becoming a member to get on their monthly newsletter list and receive valuable updates like “Resources for Frost/freeze Protection.”  website www.ncstrawberry.com

Upcoming meetings:

South Carolina, Feb 19 (From Andy Rollins)

Please mark your calendars, this year’s Upstate Strawberry Meeting will be held Thursday, February 19, 2014 at the Gaffney Extension Office (1100 West Floyd Baker Blvd., Gaffney, SC 29340) from 5:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. Dr. Gina Fernandez with NCSU will be speaking to us on some of the upcoming strawberry research and also some promising alternative berry crops. Dr. Guido Schnabel will be updating us on a disease forecasting model and a new strawberry disease app for your phone. Dr. Powell Smith will be covering significant insect issues we are facing including spotted wing drosophila, sap beetles and spider mites. Wayne Mitchem will have an update for us on the weed situation in strawberries specifically effective grass control. There will be a $10 registration fee payable at the door and pesticide credits will be available.Please make plans to attend and RSVP to Kim Dillard at 864-596-2993 (just wait till you here the computer then hit 0) or email her at kdllrd@clemson.edu. Please let us know no later than Wednesday, February 18th so that we can prepare. A full meal will be served like always so please come hungry for food and knowledge. This year’s meeting and meal is being sponsored by:Ron Taylor – D’Vine Foods & Scott Spears – C.P.S.- Crop Production Services.


Agenda for Virginia Strawberry School on Feb 24 (the Strawberry Walk is on Feb 23): 20150127-AGR-EXT-StrawberrySchool2015AgendaDraft


Roy D. Flanagan III
Agriculture Extension Agent/ Virginia Beach
2449 Princess Anne Rd.
Building 14, 2nd Floor
Virginia Beach, VA 23456
Fax: 757-385-5684
Office: 757-385-GROW (4769)

Final note:  The 30 Day Ag Weather Outlook VA – TN- NC – SC will be posted late tomorrow (Sunday), and then I will heading out to the West Coast for the North American Strawberry Symposium next week. I’ll have both my iPad and laptop with me, and will be keeping a daily check on the weather situation back east from Ventura. Enjoy the Super Bowl

Dr. E. Barclay Poling
Professor Emeritus (Strawberry Plasticulture Researcher)
Department of Horticultural Science
Campus Box 7609, 162A Kilgore Hall
NC State University
Raleigh, NC 27695-7609
“An idealist believes the short run does not count. A cynic believes the long run does not matter. A realist believes that what is done or left undone in the short run determines the long run.”

Sidney J. Harris, In: Reclaiming a Lost Heritage – Land-Grant & Other Higher Education Initiatives for the Twenty-first Century


Posted on Jan 31, 2015
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