Orchards in several regions of northern Italy sustained major damage as a result of the Arctic cold outbreak which started affecting parts of Europe on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. Unfortunately, forecast models call for another strong blast starting Monday, March 30. This time, however, entire Europe will be affected.
In the Emilia-Romagna region, some areas of the Bologna and Ravenna provinces recorded below-freezing temperatures of -6 °C (21.2 °F).
David Vernocci, president of produce wholesaler Apo Conerpo, said there was considerable damage to stone fruit and almost the entire apricot production was impacted. Other fruits such as peach, nectarine, plum, and golden kiwi were heavily ravaged.
"We still have to assess the damage on top fruit, and especially pears," he added.
Massimo Franchini, a peach and apricot producer from Casal Fiumanese, reported as well that there is nothing left of his plantation. "I do not know how long it lasted, but enough to damage every single fruit."
"I believe it will be difficult for producers to honor payments this year, as we will have no income," he stated.
Technician Alessandro Passerini also confirmed that apricots sustained severe damage, "so much that the entire production has been lost in some cases," he emphasized. "As for peaches, it will take a few days to assess the situation."
In Friuli-Venezia Giulia, although temperatures plummeted to a piercing -4 °C (24.8 °F), an anti-frost system was able to save a production in the Lestizza commune.
"We kept the anti-frost system active the whole night, which is what saved our production," said Fabiola Fongione from Tavano-Fongione. "We protected peach and apple orchards, while the development of cherry trees was still behind."
"Without that system, we would have lost everything," she remarked.
Image credit: Italia Cooperativa
While temperatures also dropped below freezing in the Verona province, Veneto anti-frost systems managed to protect kiwifruits.
"We kept the anti-frost systems on all night so as to save our kiwifruits," said Massimo Ceradini. "Now we will have to wait for a few days to see if it worked."
Alessandro Morini, a producer who cultivates 40 hectares (99 acres) of apple plantations in Zevio, reported that his Pink Lady apples have been damaged, as those were an earlier variety. "There is some thinning, and I am hoping it is the only problem."
In the Trentino Alto Adige region, while a few producers activated their anti-frost systems, there are some who were not able to do so. "Nobody activated them in my area," said Fabrizio Zadra from Val di Non.
"In Sanzeno in Val di Non, 700 m (2 297 feet) a.s.l., the development of apple orchards is still in the early stages. We registered no damage though I am sure other areas had to turn their systems on."
Featured image credit: Italia Cooperativa