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Fear of frost damage in March

Warmest winter in 120 years could cause problems for Norwegian raspberry growers

Winter was mild and wet throughout Norway. With temperatures of 4.5 degrees higher than normal, the winter records was broken in all regions with the exception of Northern Norway. In the time between December and March, it was also the wettest period recorded since the Meteorological Institute started taking measurements in 1900.

They have noticed this at Njøs, the national growing center for Norwegian fruits, in Leikanger on the Sognefjord in Western Norway. At the end of January the buds of the earliest plums started to open, while the flower buds of pears and raspberries grew rapidly.

Stein Harald Hjeltnes, director at Njøs: “It can become a problem for raspberries. If they are so far developed as they are today, they are susceptible to frost damage. That means that the month of March will be a crucial time."

Fear night frost in March
According to Hjeltnes, spring is especially exciting for raspberry growers: “The mild winter can turn out good or bad. It is spring time, because frost can damage the plants, especially in areas further inland."

Hjeltnes describes the winter as a transition period for plants, when the buds are at rest between December and mid-January. But with a mild winter like this year, the plants develop faster than normal. Although that does not immediately mean an early harvest, because severe frost can considerably damage the raspberry plants.

Hjeltnes: “The month of March is normally a crucial month with warm, sunny days and clear, cold nights. In the worst case, the buds can die, certainly in areas farther away from the fjords."

Fear of fungi
The winter months have also been wet. In comparison with the average in the period between 1961 and 1990; this winter was about 70 percent wetter. Several measurement stations in the west and far north of Norway registered precipitation numbers of 250 to 300 percent above the normal amount. Soft weather also provides good growth opportunities for another threat to fruit growers: fungal diseases. Another challenge is that the soil is too wet to work with machines.

Hjeltnes: “By monitoring the rest of the season, you have to be on top of things to protect your plants. If you water too late, you will immediately fall behind."

The season can still run as usual
Hjeltnes: "If it doesn't freeze too hard and too often, and growers can take timely measures to protect their plants, then a mild, wet winter doesn't make much difference to the fruit trees."

Because nature is well able to recover, the season can still continue as normal. A good example is the plum buds that opened two months earlier this year, where in comparison to the previous year. “If the buds come out too small, it doesn't take much to slow down development. As almost nothing has happened in recent weeks." Hjeltnes concludes.


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