VIDEO. Frost: “We have already lost 35 to 50% of production” in Tarn-et-Garonne

The essential thirty years since this had not happened … On the night from Tuesday to Wednesday, frost struck the orchards of Tarn-et-Garonne. In a few hours, some manufacturers lost up to 50% of their production. In Moissac, Maurice Andral makes a pessimistic first assessment.

Burnt flowers, blackened fruits … The inventory this year in the orchards of Maurice Andral, producer of plums and apples in Moissac, is painful. During the night the temperature dropped to -4.8 ° C. Despite a night of fierce fighting to maintain the temperature and while this season was particularly plentiful, Maurice Andral saw the fruits of his labor fall to the ground … An extraordinary one Episode that could be repeated in the night from Wednesday to Thursday … “We are facing a catastrophe”, the operator blows 15 hectares of apple trees and 15 hectares of plum trees.

“We hadn’t seen such cold since 1991”

After the first two nights of frost last week, Maurice Andral believed his harvest had been saved. This was done without anticipating the arrival of a cold spell causing so-called “black frosts” as opposed to “white frosts” which form dew on the ground. They are characterized by their so-called winter intensity and do not come from the ground, but from icy air masses.

Maurice Andral notices the damage in his orchards in Moissac. DDM – Loubna Chlaikhy

“We hadn’t seen such cold weather since 1991,” says the man who has pampered his fruit trees for more than thirty years. Moved, he inspected his orchards to assess the damage. “At first glance, we are already at 35 to 50% of the production lost due to frost,” he estimates. A bitter observation. “It’s very difficult … admits whoever happens to take a branch for a count. Of the 17 plums on the branch, we see that only one or two are still viable.”

Especially since these jellies can also cause the juice to stop. “The tree can revert to hibernation mode and therefore stop producing the sap that nourishes the fruit. After all, we could lose the entire harvest and not do anything about it, ”explains Maurice Andral. To limit the damage, seven of them still fought the frost last night.

“Paraffin candles are sold out”

In this fight against the frost, Maurice Andral puts every chance on his side. “We have the nets over the orchards that you can graduate with. The paraffin candles are not in stock, so we burn old bales with slightly damp hay. We use an air thruster to prevent the onset of frost, but we also use large towers to stir the air, but this time as the cold air is coming from above it was counterproductive, ”he decodes.

Bales of hay are burned to maintain the temperature in the orchards. DDM – Loubna Chlaikhy

So many strategies for a single goal: to limit the temperature drop. “With these methods we can reach a maximum of 3 ° C, and when it is -5 ° C, that is far from sufficient … I am very concerned,” concludes the farmer, deeply touched. Hopefully fate doesn’t last.

The apple limits the break …

Tarn-et-Garonne, the leading national apple producer, closely monitors the health of its apple trees. After an ice-cold night, Christophe Belloc visited the producers to give an initial assessment: “After I had spent the night protecting my trees, I was reassured in the morning when I was in Bessen’s balance sheet with the Stanor cooperatives in Moissac and Novacoop moved, explains the president of Blauwal, the national market leader in the export of apples. At first glance, conventional protective devices have only limited damage. The spraying obviously worked well given that black frost carried by masses of cold and dry air that hit the treetops first, as opposed to the white frosts that came from the ground. I think we will see some losses in early strains in a few days. It is always said that this is the most terrible second in two consecutive frosty nights. So I’ll wait a few hours to take stock of this episode. It is very difficult to have a very accurate weather forecast as temperatures can vary by several degrees from valley to valley. In theory, apple trees are in danger as soon as we drop below -1.6 ° C. Worries are in order until the end of April. “”
Interview by Ph. C.