This year’s Brushy Mountain tree fruit crop appears to have avoided extensive damage from two nights of temperatures below freezing late last week.
“I think we should be alright,” said Armit Tevepaugh, who grows apples and peaches in orchards near his home on Vannoy Ridge Road in the Brushy Mountain community.
Tevepaugh said the main or “king” buds in bud clusters on many of his apple trees were lost, but there are five buds in a cluster and only one per cluster is needed to produce a full crop.
Although peach trees don’t have clusters of buds, the situation is similar because buds in more advanced stages might be killed but others on the same limb can remain to produce a full crop.
Factors in addition to how cold it gets that can impact the extent of damage include how long it remains cold, moisture levels and the stage of fruit development.
Tevepaugh said it was 24 degrees in his orchards early Friday morning, but only for about two hours. It was relatively dry and that also helped.
Tevepaugh and orchardist Gregg Hendren said the thermal belt, a weather condition the Brushies are known for, made a difference for them early Saturday morning.
“I think we’ll be okay,” said Hendren, also in the Brushy Mountain community.
Temperatures dropped well into the 20s in the Wilkesboros and at lower elevations of the Brushies early Saturday morning, but most areas of the Brushies were in a belt of warm air (thermal belt) trapped by colder air above and colder air below that settled in lower elevations.
Temperatures in this belt of warm air only got down to around 31 degrees, which wasn’t cold enough to damage the fruit crop.
This belt of warmer air most often is present on the second night on the Brushies when a cold front brings freezing temperatures. This is because wind is present the first night as the front arrives, but less often the second night.
Deal Orchards in the Sugar Loaf community of northern Alexander has orchards at lower elevations and temperatures there were in the mid-20s early Friday and early Saturday mornings, said Deal Orchards spokesman Alan Deal.
Deal said that because of the early stages of apple, peach and nectarine buds, it’s still hard to judge the extent of freeze damage. “We are still hopeful and that’s our stance,” said Deal.