Even though spring is about to start, there is still a risk of frosts in the Upper Valley of the Rio Negro and Neuquen provinces, which could affect the region's fruit production as some fruits have already begun their phenological development, such as various varieties of plum and almond trees that bloomed between August 24 and September 5.
“These fruit trees would be the most affected by the frosts. Producers require the use of active control technology to preserve the production and quality of the fruit. At present, they are mainly using irrigation systems to control the frosts,” stated agronomist Andrea Rodriguez, from INTA Alto Valle. “We've had 7 frosts between August 25 and September 7. Their intensity has been variable throughout the region, going as low as -6 °C in some locations,” she added.
These temperatures are lethal for the fruit organs at the beginning of the bloom and in full bloom. That's why plum and almond trees have been the most affected trees. Even though the phenological state of cherry trees is less advanced, cherry crops can suffer a certain percentage of damage if producers don't carry out active control to protect them from the cold.
Pears and apples
Pome fruit trees are still in a state of development that tolerates temperatures as low as -7 °C. The region's late frost period usually lasts until mid-October. However, farmers know they can't lower their guard. "In recent years we've had some extraordinary frosts after November 8," the engineer said.
According to local forecasts, there might be night frosts on September 9 and 10. According to forecasts, temperatures are expected to fall to nearly zero degrees because of the wind and producers must be alert.
"The producers who have stone fruits are already protecting their production, everything is flourishing, we are always alert and we are following the weekly forecasts. We'll have to see how the pear harvest develops. The D'Anjou and Packhams varieties are already moving and the Williams is behind schedule," stated Sebastian Hernandez, the president of the Federation of Producers of Rio Negro and Neuquen. "Some producers are using pump irrigation to wet the soil."
Hernandez said that less than 5% of the 37,000 hectares in production use sprinkler irrigation to defend themselves against the frost. "It is very difficult to invest in. Producers end up prioritizing other tasks and the daily needs," he said.