Winter warmth causing crop confusion

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Many of you may have been enjoying the afternoon warmth but it's actually not good for some Valley crops.

Some crops should be dormant, perhaps in a deep freeze while storing up energy for the spring. But the recent warm temperatures have caused some crop confusion. The sun's warmth is needed during the growing season but right now blueberry bushes should be taking a cold winter's nap.

Fresno grower Jon Marthedal of Marthedal Farms said, "This year we've had very, very few chill hours."

Marthedal wasn't talking about more time to relax and unwind. He said, "The chilling hours actually make the crop kind of go to sleep. Kind of puts them into a dormancy and gives them a chance to rejuvenate for the following season."

Aside from last month's freeze, it has been a warm winter. So much so some blueberry blossoms were already starting to pop.

Marthedal said, "We would normally expect to have blueberries begin blooming close to the first of March."

Marthedal would prefer to see the blueberry buds very tight so they're protected from the cold. But that hasn't been the case.

Marthedal explained, "The flowers when they begin to show will become susceptible to frost."

Harvest begins in May so any blueberries starting to form now in the flowers will never get harvested. The plants haven't even shut down yet.

Marthedal said, "Normally you would have more of this kind of brown and red color as opposed to this green."

Depending on the variety, blueberries need anywhere from 200 to 1200 chilling hours to make a good crop.

"It's awfully nice to go out these afternoons in shirt sleeves and enjoy the sunshine but you're right what we need is cold weather," said Marthedal.

If growers see reduced yields this year, blueberry prices could rise higher.

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