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La Nina a Concern for Fruit, Vegetable Producers

With La Nina now firmly in place, producers are starting to think about what that means for crop and fruit production next year. We know that La Ninas tend to bring warmer and drier than normal weather to most of the Southeast, and this one is expected to be fairly strong, so all of the Southeast should feel its impacts. What we can expect to see is fewer chill hours for fruit and fewer cold outbreaks, although they can certainly happen and we will see a couple in the next two weeks that will bring a close to the growing season for all but the most cold-hardy crops. The lack of sustained cold means that insect pests and diseases are more likely than usual to carry over to next spring. Farmers will need to keep that in mind, along with a potential for dry soil in the spring that could cause issues for greening pastures up and germinating seeds. Fruit trees could also break dormancy earlier than usual. If they manage to get enough chill hours early in the winter during the cold period the next couple of weeks, they could also be susceptible to frost in the spring, even if it is not particularly late, since a warm winter often means an early spring bloom. You can read more at Vegetable and Specialty Crop News at https://vscnews.com/la-nina-concern-fruit-vegetable-producers/.

It will be interesting to see how chill hours accumulate for the next few weeks with the coming colder air. So far our fall has been pretty low in chill hours due to the warm conditions, as seen in the graph from AgroClimate below for Fort Valley, GA. But there is still plenty of time to catch up to average chill hours if conditions stay colder than expected. You can plot this for your own location at http://agroclimate.org/tools/chill-hours-calculator/.

Accumulated chill hours for Fort Valley, GA for 2020 compared to last season and the average for all La Nina winters.