Recent freezing temperatures may delay the peak of strawberry season, but fans of the red, juicy berry grown in the region can still rejoice because production isn’t expected to be badly affected by the cold.

Temperatures in Livingston and Tangipahoa parishes, an area with many of Louisiana’s strawberry farms, reached only the low 20s, allowing many strawberry plants just starting to produce ripe berries to avoid the worst effects of the cold, said Mary Helen Ferguson, a horticulture agent at the LSU AgCenter in Tangipahoa Parish.

While the most cold-sensitive part of the strawberry plant, the bloom that produces the strawberry, is injured at 30 degrees and colder, many farmers use “row covers” to insulate the plants from the cold that are effective as long as temperatures don’t drop too far into the teens, Ferguson said.

“Growers who had their two covers on their plants were likely able to save most of their blossoms and fruit,” Ferguson said. “Those who just had just one cover on plants likely had some injury to open flowers, but flower buds that weren’t open yet and fruit itself would have fared better.”

Dale Carona, who owns Carona Farms in Independence, said there was “minimal” damage to his strawberry plants and things should be back to normal on the farm in under two weeks.

“Now we just need some warm weather, need a little time to recover,” Carona said. “We had very little damage, but still they went through a lot just like everything else. It puts stress on the plant and whatnot, so this week of warm weather is really going to get us back going.”

Temperatures fell to as low as 20 degrees two weeks ago at the farm, Carona said, but a double layer of row covers over the plants can hold as much as a 12-degree temperature difference between under the cover and the outside.

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A low of 21 at Fletcher Farm in Ponchatoula also caused some damage to the strawberry plants there. Roughly one-third of the blooms and two-thirds of the red strawberries still in the fields were burned by the cold, farmer William Fletcher said.

“What that’s going to mean for us long term is that the onset of strawberry season proper, where there’s lots of availability, is going to be a little later,” Fletcher said. “We’re going to be a couple weeks behind on getting started instead of getting started big.”

Fletcher described the strawberry plant as a “conveyor belt” that is constantly producing blooms that turn into green berries, which turn into the red berries that they sell. While the cold weather was a setback, strawberry season at Fletcher Farm should be in full swing by early April, Fletcher said.

“We should have the prettiest berries of the year for Easter, and there should be plenty of them,” Fletcher said.

Both men said they felt lucky that temperatures never dipped into the teens, which is what was forecast in the week leading up to the winter storm.

“That 3 or 4 degrees really helped us,” Carona said. “We only got to 20 degrees, and it was a blessing because if it gets below 20 ,we can expect more damage.”

Fletcher said just 7 degrees colder would have “reset the clock” for strawberry season at his farm.

“I had some sleepless nights last week because you do what you can do, you take some preventive measures, and then all you can do is lay in bed and wonder if they’re working,” Fletcher said.