By Michael Abeyta

(CBS4) — Workers at peach orchards in in Palisade are working to protect the fruit from an early-season frost. Chris Schmalz has been the General Manager at Clark Family Orchards in Palisade, Colorado for four years. He says early-season frost is nothing new.

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“There’s always a few nights each season where they are anticipating a little bit of frost coming in,” Schmalz says.

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In fact, they have procedures for protecting their peaches and pears. It starts as soon as they see cold weather in the forecast.

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“So what we’ve done this past week is we fire up our irrigation system and try to get our different sets with a little water on them. That water, once it’s down, it takes a little bit of energy to evaporate and turn into a gas. So that energy can raise the temperature of your orchard just a little bit, a couple degrees, just enough to allow your fruit not to freeze,” Schmalz says.

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Peaches can survive at temperature near 28 degrees Fahrenheit, so Schmalz and his crew set frost alarms. If the temperature dips overnight they spring into action. They go out into the orchard to see if the wind is blowing. If it isn’t, they turn on their wind machines.

Schmalz says, “If it falls beneath 30 or 31, you start firing them up and it’s a big fan so it pushes the cold air out and lets the warm air settle.”

After that it’s up to mother nature, so the growers just wait and pray, but sometimes that’s not enough. In 2020, the crop was the victim of an early frost. That’s why Schmalz is hoping this year will be different.

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“That’s what we are really hoping for a strong season this year to keep things moving forward,” he says.

Michael Abeyta