TIFT COUNTY -- Recent frigid weather won't have a negative impact on local farmers, a Tift County extension agent said this week. In fact, the chilly weather could be a good thing.

Keith Rucker with the Tift County Extension office said that there typically aren't many row crops in the ground this time of year simply because farmers expect the cold weather.

Despite this, some area farmers do have various cold-weather crops planted such as collards and mustards. Those crops should thrive in the chilly weather as long as the temperatures don't go below the 20-degree mark.

"The produce crops like mustard and collards will be all right through the cold weather, but outside of that, there just isn't a whole lot in the ground right now," Rucker said.

After reaching the 70s over the weekend, area temperatures plunged Monday afternoon, reaching a low of 26 degrees Wednesday morning, according to the Coastal Plain Experiment Station's Web site. Temperatures were predicted to reach even lower in the 20s Wednesday night before climbing back to lows in the mid 30s for the rest of the week.

For peach and other tree-bearing fruit growers, the cold weather could actually help their crop, as long as it doesn't last very much longer. Rucker said that the weather would make the pre-blooming trees' produce more rich with high quality fruits.

"It's those cold weather snaps that the farmers are really concerned about," Rucker said. "If it's March and we get a hard freeze, it could really hurt the crop."

The county agency advises the public to use common sense when dealing with the cold. Cover fruit trees with sheets or blankets to try and keep them warm and to bring all potted plants inside during the cold weather.

For small shrubs and plants in the ground, Rucker advises putting out a lot of pine straw to insulate the roots and keep plants warm.

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