Soft fruit and apple producers brace themselves for frosts

Apple frost

Met Office forecasters are warning of an late April cold snap due to hit over the weekend and into next week - and there could be several frosts on the horizon.

Britain is bracing itself for a cold spell with predictions of “Arctic winds”, hail and possibly even sleet in some parts of the country.

And although April frosts are not unusual, any frosts this month will come off the back of the fifth warmest March since 1910.

“On Saturday night and into Sunday morning central and northern Britain are likely to experience frost, while on Sunday night, frost is expected to be reasonably widespread across the south of the UK,” says a Met Office statement.

“Into next week, much colder conditions are expected to bring wintry weather to northern hills and further bouts of frost in locations with clear skies.”

The frost forecasts have prompted warnings from National Farmers’ Union chief horticulture adviser Hayley Campbell-Gibbons.

“Soft fruit production is protected by polytunnels, which can handle frosts of up to minus two degrees, but a severe frost would still be dangerous, and the cooler than average temperatures will certainly slow down production,” she says.

“The biggest concern is outdoor fruit production – such as apple and pear orchards, and blackcurrants. Production is ahead of schedule in many parts of the country, which means trees are in full flower and very vulnerable to night frosts. A severe frost could significantly impact British fruit production.”

Experiencing spring frosts is nothing new in the UK, but often comes as a blow to growers. This also contrasts with the widespread high production of crops like cauliflower, carrots and asparagus following a mild winter and the recent higher than average temperatures around Britain.

In a UK series stretching back to 1961, 1984 recorded the most spring (March to May) frosts, with 47 frost days, while there were the fewest, 23 frost days, in spring 2014.

In April 2016, there were 14 days of frost recorded in the UK and with seven frost days, April 2014 recorded the fewest numbers of days, along with 2011 and 1961.
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