To Bud or Not to Bud: Cold Threatens Fruit Crops

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This year's record-setting warmth is affecting businesses across the country -- for better or for worse.

Right now many fruit farmers are worried about a cold snap that's threatening early buds.

But in other areas, companies say the warm weather has meant better business.

In the Great Lakes, Northeast, and even parts of the South, fruit trees have been budding as much as three to four weeks ahead of schedule. That makes them especially vulnerable to cold snaps like the ones taking place this week.

"We're really look for any black, which would indicate a freezing situation," said John Burns, with the Belkin family's Lookout Farm in Massachusetts.

Burns inspects his fruit trees for frost as soon as the sun rises. Last week, temperatures were in the low 80s but this week there's bone-chilling cold.

In Pennsylvania, Robin Miller's apple trees have budded four weeks ahead of schedule, and she fears cold weather later this spring could hurt them.   

Some areas have even seen temperatures in the 20s. And in the midwest, the threat of frost won't pass until mid-May.     

"We are going to sprinkle them with water all night long, starting to when it gets 32 degrees until about 35 degrees tomorrow morning," David Patterson, with Patterson Fruit Farm, said.

"(We) do this all night to try and protect the flowers so we can get another 4 degrees of protection," he said.

But the warm weather does mean good business for others.

In Des Moines, Iowa, Charles Devries' landscaping business, which normally doesn't start till April, is already busy.

"It's all a little crazy," Devries said. "We're trying to do five things at once instead of having five people do one thing."

In many areas, the rising temperatures have also brought out the bugs and small pests extra early. Products like Ant Bait are flying off the shelves at Critter Control in Topeka, Kansas.

There's at least one welcome sight -- the Bluebonnets in Texas.

Spring has officially sprung in the Lone Star State, where heavy winter rains are now paying off with a spectacular wildflower crop this year.

The country's two largest fruit growing states, California and Washington, appear to have avoided this week's cold snap. If there is much damage, experts say consumers would likely notice a regional price increase at their farmers markets.     

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