The buds of many peach and other fruit trees were not open enough to be damaged by the latest cold front that stormed through Texas, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.
Though he doesn't expect wholesale damage, it's still too early after the last bout of freezing weather in early March to say for certain what the damage was, if any, said Larry Stein, AgriLife Extension horticulturist, Uvalde.
"It got a lot colder than most people thought it was going to get," Stein said. "Unfortunately, we did have trees starting to bloom. We had some peaches that were bloomed out, but most things were just starting to bloom, so we're optimistic that we had enough buds that were tight enough that they will still develop and set a crop. Also, the bud set on most trees was excessive due to the low or no crop the year before, so some thinning was indeed needed."
The problem is not the cold weather per se, but the warm periods in between, he said. If the weather stays cool, even though fruit trees such as peaches, apricots, pears and plums have enough cold hours to bloom, they won't -- unless there are at least three to five days of spring-like warm weather.
What was interesting about this cold spell was that it seemed to travel more easterly through Texas, sparing some of the more southern fruit-growing areas such as the strawberries around Poteet, Stein said.
"We kind of dodged the bullet in that regards," he said.
Also, it's good news that a lot of fruit and nut crops still have tight buds, such as blackberries, pecans and apples, so they were not likely to be damaged by the cold spell, Stein said.
"If we get another one of these in seven to 10 days, it's not going to be good," he said. "But by the same token, if it stays cool from now to another freeze, then it's going to slow down the development of buds and shoots, lessening the chance of damage."
More information on the current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force website at agrilife.tamu.edu/drought/.
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
Central -- The region received a few scattered showers, but they were not enough to relieve moisture stress. Many fruit trees in the area were budding out before the last freeze and may not produce fruit this year. Our livestock are being supplemented with cubes and hay. Warm days and plenty of sunlight last week really greened up wheat and made it grow. It was time to plant corn and grain sorghum, but soils were very dry. Many producers planted anyway, hoping for rain to bring crops up.
Coastal Bend -- Farmers were planting corn and grain sorghum despite highly variable temperatures. Temperatures fell about 30 degrees in 15 minutes when the latest winter storm pushed through the area. High winds accompanying the storm depleted topsoil moisture needed for germination. Pastures were greening up, but there was no substantial amount of forage available. Livestock producers continued to feed cattle heavily with hay and protein supplements.
East -- Cold fronts continued to push across the region. Counties reported some warm sunny days followed by colder temperatures, accompanied by rain and snow. The warmer days helped winter pastures grow. Livestock producers were still feeding hay and supplements, but hay supplies were becoming low. Cattle were in fair to good condition. Area cattle markets remained active and favorable. Calving continued.
Farmers were preparing land for corn planting and Bermuda grass sprigging. Fruit trees were being pruned. Trinity County reported that with all the moisture received during the past few months, even a small rain caused problems driving over pastures and many county roads. Feral hogs were active.