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USA - Record-cold temperatures forecast to hit Columbia this weekend

Temperatures over the next three days are forecast to fluctuate around the freezing point. As of Thursday afternoon, snow is predicted both Friday and Sunday, and Friday’s low is expected to reach 20 degrees — breaking a record low last set in 1898.

Saturday’s temperatures are expected to warm up, with a high of 40 degrees. On Sunday, there is a 50 percent chance of rain and snow, according to the National Weather Service.

The chill may mean a coat and scarf for some, but for plants, the solution isn’t so simple.

“Certainly, it will damage any of our flowering trees that are in full bloom,” MU professor of horticulture Michele Warmund said. “And around 22 degrees is when we start seeing severe damage on flowering plants.”

And there’s just not much that can be done: “Any shrub or tree of any size will be hard to protect in weather this cold,” Warmund said.

There are products called cryoprotectants that protect against frost and freeze damage, Warmund said, but they’re not a cure-all solution.

“Some do work under laboratory conditions, but they don’t always perform successfully in the outdoors,” she said. “Generally, it’s a waste of money for homeowners to apply these products to their plants.”

Although this cold spell will lead to crop thinning, it won’t kill the plants, Warmund said.

“Generally, while there is cause for some concern in fruit loss, there are so many flowers on the trees that we have to hand remove some of it anyway,” she said.

For Bruce Arnett, owner of Peach Tree Farm, these cold temperatures are a plus for his peaches because they are not yet in full bloom.

“Any kind of cold weather we get will slow the blooming process down,” he said. “That’s a good thing for us.”

But it’s not a given that a cold spell in April is a good thing for peaches: “Last year this time, they were already bloomed out, and if it would’ve hit a freeze, that would’ve been bad,” he said. “They would’ve been gone.”

Although it’s been positive for his crop, he knows that doesn’t apply to every plant.

“I have friends that grow a lot of things, and it’s hurting all of them,” Arnett said. “I don’t want to revel in this cold temperature, because it’s hurting my friends.”

In agriculture, there’s no guarantee. “Statistically, I’m in great shape, but you just don’t know,” Arnett said. “After 30 years, you just roll with it.”

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