Montgomery County — The early and rapid rise in temperatures in the area this winter seem to indicate that spring started months ago, rather than just weeks ago.
Local farmers are concerned that the mild winter could present a bug problem for their crops. The potential for a spring freeze that could damage their crops is a concern as well.
This year was the third warmest meteorological winter on record for Washington, D.C.
“We are concerned about what may be coming because we didn’t really have much of a hard freeze which typically kills some of the population of bugs,” said Eric Spates of Stoney Castle Farm in Poolesville.
Spates grows wheat, corn and soybeans and farms about 1,000 acres. Insect damage tends to be more of a problem when the winter has been warm than when there are colder winters, he said.
“We are at risk for a much greater insect infestation this year,” he said.
Gene Kingsbury grows peaches, apples and pears on Kingsbury’s Orchard in Dickerson, Md. and said the insects could be worse this year. He is specifically worried about the increased population of stink bugs, which he said suck juice from the fruit.
“It’s really not salable if they’ve been on the fruit, so we have to try to do our best to combat those each year,” he said.
Kingsbury said the early blooming of the crops might mean restructuring the calendar.
“We’re going to have to open I think two weeks early because of the early weather,” he said.
He is worried that the winter air could still make a comeback well into April and be detrimental to the crops, especially the peaches that bloom earlier than the apples and pears.
“This year, blooming so early, we’re just concerned about that really cold, 25-degree weather when we could lose possibly the entire peach crop,” he said.
Meteorologist Howard Bernstein said a late freeze is unlikely this year based on the current pattern, but it cannot be completely ruled out.
“It only takes one shot of cold air at the right time with the right conditions to get us that frost or freeze, and that can still happen for a few more weeks,” he said.