Calhoun and Kalamazoo County farmers and backyard gardeners alike did some scrambling yesterday and into the evening. With temperatures predicted to fall into the mid-’20s, averting crop and plant damage is paramount.

For the critical fruit crops here in West and Central Michigan, most farmers say the critical point is around 27 to 28 degrees. Above that, they can sometimes keep their crops safe with big fans and even ground fires.

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Gardeners can cover small plots without too much issue. The overnight readings around Battle Creek have fallen to as low as 24 degrees at the last report. More than enough to cause serious problems with emerging plants. We have another night with predicted low temperatures at that make or break level. And then tomorrow night in the low 30’s – not that far off the danger point. Tens of millions of dollars worth of crops are at stake.

Michigan Farm News reports one reason some farmers turn to big fans out in their fields and orchards is to ward off temperature inversions. That’s where cold air gets trapped by the ground with warmer air up higher. Fans can help mix up the air and get some of the warmer air working around the orchards to help prevent frost and freeze damages.

In Berrien Springs, Greg Kugel runs the fourth-generation Kugel Farms LLC which grows several fruit varieties including grapes, apples, and peaches. He tells MFN the last notable freeze his farm weathered was in 2012.  That event forced many growers to invest in updated temperature control systems. Many are putting that investment to good use this week. Kugel tells Farm News, “You’re always worried; you’re always nervous about a freeze, knowing it’s your livelihood in the end and could cause strain on our operation. You just have to have faith and pray that you can get through it and do whatever you can to give you the best odds.”

Most Michigan farmers and gardeners won’t know the full extent of the cold weather damage until the weekend or early next week. It will be a tough wait.

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