RELATION. Tarn-et-Garonne arborists are already on guard against late frosts
Fruit producers in the department have begun monitoring their farms more to protect them from the oncoming negative temperatures. Objective: to avoid reliving the disastrous scenario of the last two springs.
In the flowering alleys of her farm located in Cazes-Mondenard, Violaine Moles takes a quick look at the weather application on her phone. “A priori, we should stay positive until the end of next week,” she says. A good thing for the arborist, in organic plums and Chasselas for ten years. Until April 20, late frosts will become his greatest concern, after two catastrophic years for the profession. Violaine Moles takes stock, bitterly: “In 2021 the sprinklers froze. I lost all my plum production; 40% of grapes depending on the plot. In the spring of 2022, we started spraying too late on the plums, 70% to 80% of the harvest was thrown away, while losses in the vineyard were limited to 20% because budding was less advanced”.
So, this year, it’s not about reliving it a third time at the Paradou farm. Since January, the arborist has been on a war footing. Objective: not to be surprised. The less advanced flowering than last year is the first good news. “The very mild temperatures in December raised fears of extreme earliness in the orchards. The cold in February was a godsend, it brightened everything up. Last year the trees of the European varieties were in full bloom at the end of March and the earlier frosts occurred on April 4. There, the buds are just beginning to swell. We won two weeks, “he reassures himself.
Crucial period from 5 to 10 April
The same state of mind a few kilometers away, at the Maurice Andral. On the slopes of Saint-Amans, the producer watches over his thirty hectares. He too has suffered heavy losses in the last two years: 95% of his plum harvest and 200 tons of apples in 2021; 80% of early varieties in 2022. Moissagais has a large stock of paraffin candles to protect its plum trees. “We’ll also start spraying the apple trees with preventative antifreeze,” he continues. For Maurice Andral the crucial period will be played from 5 to 10 April. “This is where the frosts are expected, hopefully not before. I have ordered two wind towers for 100,000 euros which I have not received yet and they will have to go up. They must arrive before the beginning of April, otherwise it will be complicated,” fears the arborist.
RELATION. Tarn-et-Garonne: sleepless nights due to black frosts in the orchards
For her part, Violaine Moles has chosen sprinkling. A well-considered decision: “There is no miracle cure for frost, but this method seems to me to be the most reliable for protecting flowers and early fruits. Also, I am fortunate enough to have a lake in the hills with sufficient storage for my water supply. L The farmer will therefore rely entirely on this technique to protect grapes and plums on 3.6 ha and 2.5 ha respectively.” It is complicated to cover all the plantations. I will concentrate on the more advanced plots of production,” she admits. The main pipes, too small, have been changed to be able to water everything at the same time and form the protective ice shells. Investment cost: €32,000 excluding VAT.
Alert at 1°
Using three probes strategically placed on her land, Violaine Moles will be alerted in real time in the event of a drop in mercury. “I set it to 1° to be able to leave early.” The experience of the last two years will be an asset: “A year ago, the temperatures dropped very quickly. At 21:00, the probes were already ringing and an hour later we were negative”. With freezing nights for the department, which go down to -7 °.
The arborist wants to be pretty confident. But be on your guard. He has also taken out weather insurance on his plum orchards, up to €4,000 for 4.5ha in production.