- Brooks County, Ga. - March 16, 2012 -
It's unusually hot for March, and paired with hardly any cold days this winter, it's taking a toll on South Georgia farmers.
Peaches and blueberries are big business in South Georgia, but unseasonably warm temperatures have farmers sweating more than just the heat, but damaged crops as well.
Farmers count on the cold to regulate their growing periods. The heat is causing fruit crops to start their blooming cycles too early.
Brooks County Extension Coordinator for the University of Georgia Johnny Whiddon tells Eyewitness News reporter Greg Gullberg that means much of the crop will mature too fast or too slow to rip properly leaving baskets of disfigured fruit.
"Right now this extremely warm beach weather we're having is creating some issues in the fact that everything is moving a lot faster than we normally expect at this time of the year," said Whiddon.
Whiddon warns that improper growth increases their susceptibility to insects and disease. That means farmers will have to start spraying their crops early.
And there's one last big fear. A strong blast of cold before Easter could catch crops off guard with their natural defenses lowered.
Some farmers are finding ways of taking advantage of the heat. For instance, corn farmers see it as an opportunity to get ahead of the game and plant early. But by doing that they run the risk of an early Spring cold blast wiping out their crops. That is an expensive gamble.