Farmers worry frost could damage some crops
By R.A. Monti
Published: Tuesday, May 14, 2013, 12:56 a.m.
Local farmers are doing everything they can to fight the cold.
Temperatures reached the low 30s late Sunday and early Monday — some people in Lower Burrell and Harrison even reported snow on the ground — and a repeat was expected for late Monday and early Tuesday.
No surprise that Wes Ambrose is worried about his tomato crop.
“We had a fairly easy night, (Sunday) night,” said Ambrose, owner of Ambrose Farm in Winfield. “Tonight (Monday) will be a little more of a challenge.”
According to the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh, the area was under a frost warning from 1 a.m. until 8 a.m. Tuesday.
To help combat the possibility of frost, Ambrose and his father, Steve, use an overhead irrigation system to water their more than 20,000 tomato plants in order to keep them from freezing.
“We have onions and cabbage and other crops out, but they're fairly resistant,” he said. “The tomatoes are a different story.
“We'll be crossing our fingers that they don't get damaged too much.”
National Weather Service meteorologist Brad Rehak said while temperature plays a role in frost, it's not the only key component.
“You have to have clear skies and no wind,” Rehak said. “Tonight (Monday) it might go below freezing for a couple hours, especially north and east of Allegheny County.
“It can frost when it's in the 40s; it's all about the conditions.”
Rehak said when temperatures reach below 30 degrees, farmers — professional or otherwise — should be even more worried.
“That's a freeze. It doesn't matter what the other conditions are like. If crops aren't properly cared for, they'll be killed.”
Rehak said it isn't unusual for a frost or freeze to occur in mid-May.
At Schramm Farms and Orchards in Penn Township, Westmoreland County, the concern is over grapes.
Hill Schramm, one of the farm's owners, said his farm uses the same irrigation system that the Ambroses use for tomatoes, and his other crops are covered to limit the amount of cold that can affect them.
“We either cover stuff, or we run the water all night,” he said about his more than 150-acre farm. “The strawberries, asparagus, sweet corn and tomatoes are all protected.
“The only thing we can't protect are the grapes.”
Schramm said the farm's apple and pear trees have blossomed, so they're unlikely to be harmed by the cold.
Schramm said he's glad the cold weather will only be around for a couple of days.
According to the National Weather Service, temperatures are expected to return to the 70s on Wednesday.
“If it was constant cold weather, it will damage them, even if you do protect them,” Ambrose said. “It's the lesser of two evils.”
Ambrose said it'll take a while to know if his tomatoes are severely damaged.
“They can be pretty rugged,” he said. “My dad always says, ‘The next morning (after a frost) they can look pretty sad, and then you look a month later and they look like nothing happened to them.'
“They can bounce back.”
R.A. Monti is a freelance writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers score with Springdale fundraiser
- Alle-Kiski car dealers ready for thaw
- Man to face DUI-homicide trial for Route 28 wreck
- Leechburg biology teacher earned students’ respect
- New Kensington man charged with scrap metal theft
- Allegheny Township officials seek more support for waterline project
- Harmar bald eagles get crack at parenting
- Alle-Kiski fish fry organizers try to hook customers
- 3 more charged in Harrison beating
- Tarentum robbery victim chooses not to shoot suspect; 2 in jail
- Deer Creek mine discharge project should be wrapped up by late spring