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Farmers Worry Fruit Trees, Grape Vines Not Ready For Winter

For the next week temperatures in Washington’s farmland are predicted to be mild. But wine grape growers and orchardists still worry a cold snap could hurt them.

In southcentral Washington fruit trees are just showing a tinge of yellow. And grapes vines still wear their cloak of green. It’s a sign the vines haven’t dried out enough to get ready for winter.

In a vineyard overlooking the Columbia River, Lacey Lybeck plucked off a lone caramel-colored leaf.

“It should be browning and then beginning to just drop onto the ground,” Lybeck said,

Lybeck manages about 1,000 acres of wine grapes. Normally this time of year the vines are really starting to dry out. That helps the buds and vines concentrate sugars and salts -- sort of like plant antifreeze.

But the temperatures have stayed warmer, longer this year. And if they drop suddenly, those buds could freeze and die. That would crush next year’s fruit.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.