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Fruit growers, winemakers dealing with early season warmth problems now


MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - The record warmth in March might have felt good – but it’s now causing lots of problems for Wisconsin’s fruit growers and winemakers.

Places that didn’t get below 50 degrees on a few nights in March put a false alarm into budding vines and orchards, and they started growing too early.

Now that it gets below freezing at night, those vines face the risk of dying. And producers fear thousands of dollars in losses.

Owners of the Wollersheim Winery at Prairie du Sac are trying to fight the elements with what’s called a “Frost Dragon.” It’s a large machine that warms up the vineyards, and keeps frost from coming up.

But winery vice president Julie Coquard says the machine won’t save the vines if it gets below 25 degrees at night – and it’s “iffy” at 27 or 28.

It got down to 24 Friday morning at Richland Center, which is due west of Prairie du Sac. Black River Falls and Fort McCoy were as cold as 21.

The National Weather Service says it’s supposed to stay above freezing Friday night throughout Wisconsin – but the 20’s are expected to return by next Tuesday morning in many parts of the Badger State.