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Warm plus dry - double threat

February 20, 2002

Warm plus dry - double threat



If you think the drought is bad, factor in a series of unseasonably warm February days and area farmers and orchardists are starting to worry.

"Warm temperatures soften the buds on fruit trees," said University of Maryland Extension Agent Don Schwartz. "And dry buds are much more susceptible to late freezes."

In Hagerstown Tuesday, the temperature hit 58 degrees at 2:42 p.m., according to weather observer Greg Keefer's Web site.

Local weather observers reported a high of 62 degrees in Williamsport Tuesday, and of 60 degrees in Boonsboro.

A high of 57 degrees was recorded Tuesday at the Maryland State Police barrack south of Hagerstown.

At Hagerstown Regional Airport, temperatures reached a high of 53 during the afternoon.

Schwartz said buds haven't gotten enough moisture this year to produce the sugars that serve as a natural antifreeze when temperatures drop. When buds freeze after they have softened, no fruit is produced later in the season.

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Small grains and grasses seeded last fall could also be affected by the warm temperatures, Schwartz said. "Those crops have germinated by now. Without moisture and with warm temperatures, it could severely reduce those yields."

Schwartz said he can't remember crops being under as much stress as they are this year, both from the drought and the recent stretch of warm days.

- Marlo Barnhart

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