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Severe crop damage after late frost hits parts of Argentina

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A 12-hour frost with an extremely low temperature of -10 °C (14 °F) in the southern oasis and -5 to -8 °C (23  – 17.6 °F) in the Uco Valley caused severe damage to fruit production in Argentina on September 3, 2019. Experts suggested that this was due to the very dry weather in the earlier months from June to August, which are more conducive to frost.

The crops affected the most were almond, peach, and plum, Los Andes reports. The worst-affected farms were in Cipolletti with a temperature of -6 °C (21.2 °F), in Cinco Saltos with -9 °C (15.8 °F), and in Ingeniero Huergo with -8 °C (17.6 °F).

The Secretariat of Fruit Cultivation of Rio Negro stated that the damages are now being examined.

"We'll know the actual damage in the next few days, when we can make a more thorough evaluation, making cuts in the buds and evaluating the flowers. There's probably some damage that we'll be unable to see until it manifests on the plant, such as tissue death or necrosis," agricultural engineer Martin Cavagnaro from the Directorate of Agriculture and Climate Contingencies (DACC) explained.

Cavagnaro also explained that late frosts are common during September, especially when it would come after a very hot weather. Since the region did not experience rain for two and a half months, the frost afterward was most likely to happen.

Before the phenomenon, the government had issued an announcement regarding the severe weather so that crop producers could prepare for the upcoming frost.

Albert Diomedi, the provincial Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries stated that the announcement was given five days prior.

Diomedi made sure that there will be a more accurate evaluation, saying that "on Monday we'll have more precise data with the information that the technicians who are already visiting the affected areas gather in the field."

The Ministry of Fruit Production will welcome the producers on September 9, 2019, to receive their affidavits.

Furthermore, the government reportedly delivered waters through supply canals as protection against frost.

However, Belen Bobbadilla, an agronomist of the Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Agriculture, and Tourism of Tunuyan expressed that the phenomenon was complicated and that it would be difficult to identify the damage especially since most fruits are still in developmental stages.

In addition, more developed crops such as almond and stone fruit were negatively affected to the point where producers used burners to combat the frost.

"The rest of the crops did not require these actions, but it will be necessary to see how the fruit set develops and how the season continues. We are beginning the flowering season,” Bobbadilla stated.

According to forecasts, Argentina will face more frost in several days, with temperatures between -3 to -5 °C (26.6 – 23 °F).

Featured image credit: Los Andes Diario

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