May 14, 2013
Tuesday mornings temperatures dropped to at or below the freezing mark for many parts of Central Virginia and that puts vineyards and orchards on edge.
Carrington King, Vineyard Manager of King Family Vineyards, said, "We're not really worried about the grass getting frosted but we need to know where the cold air is around these delicate flowers and shoots."
King Family Vineyards had to pull out the big guns on Tuesday morning. Two helicopters rose into the sky shortly after five a.m. The helicopters are used to push the warmer air down into the crops.
King said, "That gave us the extra bump in temperature we needed to keep everything alive."
Using helicopters can be an expensive venture but in the end it's well worth it.
King said, "It's pushing about a thousand dollars an hour to fly a helicopter, which sounds expensive, but in reality if we lost at potential a hundred tons of fruit and you extrapolate that into our wine. That's our whole years worth of product."
Just a couple of miles down the road is Chiles Peach Orchard. This morning they were using water to protect their strawberries.
Lisa Henson, Assistant Manager at Chiles Peach Orchard, said, "We were out here around 4:30 and around 5 o'clock when the sun started coming up slowly, we start watering. We keep water coming on the berries and plant so the frost can't settle."
Chiles Peach Orchard also used wind machines to protect their cherries and peaches. These measures protected the fruit and they didn't lose anything.
Each vineyard and orchard is its own little microclimate. For one location, the water and wind will do the trick. For others, there could still be some damage.
King said, "I have heard some reports of some damage but very localized in some very low lying spots of the vineyards but I have heard nothing of just massive kill off."
Both Chiles Peach Orchard and King Family Vineyards are pretty confident that this will be the last frost of the Spring.