Concerns about late-night freeze has Eckert’s Farms owners weighing options to keep crops warm


ST. CLAIR COUNTY, Ill. – Another blast from winter-like temperatures could cause big problems for local orchard owners. The folks at Eckert’s Farms in Belleville are considering flying in a helicopter to keep their fruit trees safe from frost.

Chris Eckert, president of Eckert’s, explained why that could help.

“Warm air will rise and will create a layer about 30 or 40 feet above the trees. The helicopter acts like a giant fan to blow that warm air down into the orchard to warm it up,” he said.

Eckert wants to keep any frost damage to a minimum.

“Right now, it’s creating a lot of anxiety, I would say with the forecast of frost for tonight and tomorrow night,” he said.

Eckert said his apple trees should be fine. He’s more concerned about the 40,000 peach trees, which are becoming loaded with delicate blossoms that are sensitive to the cold.

“The total value of the crop is multi-millions of dollars,” he said.

Workers have spent the day covering the 130,000 strawberry plants that also have blossoms. The strawberries are only about a football field away from the peach trees yet the temperatures for them could be 5 to 8 degrees colder.

“Because they’re lower to the ground and also a little lower elevation on our farm,” Eckert said.

The cold air settles to the ground. Customers are hoping for the best for the Eckert family.


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