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Madison Co. strawberry farmer finding unique ways to keep plants safe from cold temperatures

Published: Apr. 21, 2021 at 4:49 PM EDT
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MADISON COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) - After a record late-season snowfall fell across the commonwealth from last night and into this morning, many farmers have been making sure to protect their crops. In Madison County, one strawberry farmer has been using a unique method to keep his plants safe from the freezing temperatures.

Brent Marcum grew up on a farm and has owned his own strawberry farm for 15 years now. In a normal year, they harvest roughly 50 to 75 gallons of strawberries a day from May through July, but weather can bring major impacts.

During late season cold snaps, Marcum uses sprinklers to keep this plants wet, and while most might think that’s bad, it actually helps thanks to a law of thermodynamics.

“It freezes on them, encapsulates them, and as water freezes it gives off heat and so we just keep water running until all of the ice is gone and the air temperature is back up above frost or freeze levels and it works beautifully,” Marcum said.

The Marcum family say they fared pretty well through this first freeze and snowfall but they’re keeping a close eye on that forecast as more freezing weather is expected over the next few nights and mornings.

“Lower to the ground I’m usually a degree or two colder than the forecast so if I have clear skies, no wind, and 40 degrees, I’ve got to do something,” Marcum said.

With freeze warnings in place for Wednesday night and watches in place through Friday morning, Marcum says he’ll likely continue to turn on his sprinklers, but some worry still remains.

“Tonight is a worrisome night, we’re okay as long as I don’t have a mechanical failure somewhere, a hose bust or a pump die, something like that,” Marcum said.

To keep their sprinkler system cost efficient, the Marcum family uses water from their pond for their fields, which also slopes in a way that any runoff from the fields will then go back into the pond.

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