POSTED: Thursday, December 13, 2012 - 6:30pm
UPDATED: Thursday, December 13, 2012 - 6:34pm
BATON ROUGE, LA (NBC33) — The strawberry industry is a multi-million dollar one here in the state of Louisiana. That's why farmers across the area have been keeping a weathered eye on the freezing weather these past few days. With every drop of the mercury, local strawberry farmers get a little more nervous wondering if this could be the freeze that would set their business back for weeks.
"It could really hurt right now. This is the time of year when we try to get back our costs," Eric Morrow, with Pontchatoula Strawberry said.
"The growers, you know what, it makes them nervous. Their whole livelihood depends on the strawberry yields. So they're going to, like I said, they're going to protect any time the forecast is below 40," Katheryn Fontenot, with the LSU Agriculture Extension office, explained.
During Wednesday’s overnight freeze strawberry farmers like Morrow were forced to cover the crop or lose about six weeks worth of strawberry yield, a hit they can't afford to take at this point in the season.
"We’re starting to collect some of the strawberries now and we'll continue every week. So we just don't want any breaks. Six weeks without any berries would be kind of tough," Morrow explained.
Fontenot said while farmers don't have too much to worry about with over-night lows in the 30's, if temps continue to dip in to the 20's or teens it could spell a big profit loss to the multi-million dollar industry.
"They want to produce berries earlier to get a better price. Which helps them out, helps out our local economy and so that's something important to them. Now if we had a major freeze for a couple of days in a row it would just push back harvest time," Fontenot added.
The experts also encourage anyone with strawberries in their own gardens to follow the same rules they do, and cover up their berries with pine needles or even sheets if the temps go below freezing.