Why some Georgia farmers are actually thankful for the freeze

Some South Ga. farmers thankful for the hard freeze
Published: Dec. 28, 2022 at 3:12 PM EST
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GRADY COUNTY, Ga. (WALB) - There have been mixed opinions about the recent near-record cold, but many Georgia farmers were definitely fans of it.

Some Georgia farmers rely on cold weather, and it’s something they haven’t had in recent years.

“It feels like it hadn’t been this cold since the ‘80s,” said John Harrell, a row crop farmer in Grady County.

Albany and some surrounding areas didn’t get below 20 degrees for almost eight years. A hard freeze is defined by temperatures being below 24 degrees.

Cale Cloud, a university of Georgia Extension agent, said multiple nights of hard freezing in a row is what really helps farmers.

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“We didn’t really get a good deep, hard freeze last winter so it seemed to me like we had a bit more issues with nematodes, whiteflies, thrips and various other insects and diseases this past growing season,” Cloud said.

In June, Harrell was battling a disease and bug problem at his farm where he grows 1,000 acres of cotton and peanuts every year.

“It was more prevalent in the peanut crop this year than it had been in a number of years. It was very significant,” Harrell said.

He and other south Georgia farmers hope that the multiple days of hard freezes are good news for the next growing season.

Harrell said when bugs don’t get killed, there is a strain for the entire season. In the past, when Harrell has had freezes like we just did, the pests have stayed away until late in the season. This is because the bugs die off well into Florida, so they repopulate and travel north later in the summer. He hopes viral diseases stay away too, but says year-to-year is tough to predict.

But it’s not all good news for growers. They also had to winterize pipes and irrigation systems to protect them.

“It’s stuff like your windshield wipers, containers on your vehicles, your tractors, that you may or may have not thought about winterizing. You can’t prepare but so much for stuff that you don’t know,” Harrell said.

Harrell says in the coming weeks as it warms a bit, he will learn the damage done by this cold event. Then, he will have to fix what’s needed. This process isn’t easy for farmers like Harrell, as parts and equipment are tough to handle, and repairing is a hard task.

Lindy Savelle, a citrus grower in Ochlocknee, is still waiting to see the damage to her citrus trees. She freeze-protected her plants, but said she’s not sure what the extent of the damage is since she’s never dealt with crops and temperatures being in the teens.