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Warmer weather and early buds have orchards worried

Warmer weather and early buds have orchards worried. (Photo: Ginna Roe / KUTV)

(KUTV) — Farmers across the Wasatch front are starting to feel the impact of a warmer winter.

This January is the second warmest on record for the state of Utah. 27 of January’s 31 days were above average. Thirteen of those days hit above 50 degrees.

Chris Healey, manager at Manning Orchard, is beginning to worry about his crops. The peach trees are already budding about a month ahead of schedule.

“The buds are swollen right now. Typically, they’d be more inside their limb more like a turtle head. As so as it starts to warm up, that turtle head starts to come out,” Healey said. Once the buds bloom, a freeze can kill the crop. “At this point, it’s scaring me.”

In 2015, the orchard lost 100 percent of its crops because of the warm weather. Trees bloomed early and then were hit with a late frost.

“It was a really hard year,” Healey said.

He’s afraid this year is on track to look just like 2015.

“There’s nothing you can do but just hope for the best weather.”

Healey said his crops depend on temperatures below freezing, especially overnight. He’s been managing the Orchard for a decade, but it’s been in his family for more than 120 years. If he continues to see a trend in warm winters, Healey said he’ll have to consider moving.

“There’s no point in farming ground that’s not going to produce for you and give back to you,” he said.

But in the meantime, he’ll continue to spend every day in fields.

“That’s all you can do is just keep working, every day.”

He’s optimistic this growing season can still turn around.

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