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With frost in the forecast, Massachusetts farmers are fighting for crops' lives

As frost threatens, a Tyngsboro farmer will work through the night to keep his crops alive
As frost threatens, a Tyngsboro farmer will work through the night to keep his crops alive 02:15

TYNGSBORO - Massachusetts fruit farmers are bracing for a series of cold nights that could put their crops in jeopardy of dying off. The fear comes after some farmers lost their crops last year.

What crops are most in danger?

"We were knocked last year on the peaches and the cherries, so this year they have come back with a beautiful potential crop," said Tyngsboro fruit farmer Mark Parlee, "They are coming out with a great bloom, so we are expecting a good crop this year if I can get through the next three nights."

Losing peaches and cherries can be devastating to the farm. "The peaches and cherries for us are 7% to 8% of our gross sales," Parlee said. Losing them for a second year would be devastating, "Nobodylikes a 15% to 20% cut in pay. ... the adrenaline's going."

How can farmers save their crops?

Peaches are now in full bloom, which can be a vulnerable time. If temps drop below 28 degrees, then they will start to be injured. At 21 degrees, 90% of them will die. Farmers will work late into the night to soak and freeze their crops to keep them from dying off. When the water freezes, it gives off heat and can keep the fruits alive. If the wind gets above 7 miles per hour, that could undo the benefits of the freezing. 

Parlee Farm in Tyngsborough has a vast sprinkler system that can keep the crops wet and frozen at night. It means Mark's alarm may be waking him late at night and leaving him with very little sleep this week.

"It's programed to go off when the temperature hits - right now, it's around 30 degrees that it goes off - and then it wakes me up, and I get to work," Parlee said.

The peaches are less susceptible to the cold than apples. However, apples are not in bloom. The timing of the frost leaves the peaches at a higher risk.

"Everything is pretty similar. Below 28 degrees, you will start getting injury," Parlee said.

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