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Warmer temperatures are already altering the growing season

PERRY, Utah (News4Utah) - A warmer start to 2018 has melted lower elevation snow and is now sending mixed messages to our plants, flowers and trees.

Winter weather seems to be playing a game of hide and seek, and while arborists at Utah State University hope for snow and cold, they know it's going to cost them in the way of some early bloomers.

With several days 50 degree days already under our belts, lilac bushes and magnolia trees are already pushing their buds.

"They will put a lot of water and moisture in those buds and flowers, and i f it gets really cold again, it will freeze all those growing tips, and yeah, it's very concerning," Dane Gyllenskog, Arborist at Utah State University, said.

The warmer temperatures also have growers on Utah's famous fruit highway cautious. The trees are still dormant, but this warmth gets them thinking about waking up.

Jordan Riley manages Nielson's fruit orchards in Perry, and he says that operations are about a month ahead of schedule. The cherries, apples and now peaches are getting pruned.

"The buds really haven't made a move yet, but at this point, every hour above 42 degrees means bloom comes that much earlier," said Riley. 

This weather pattern is speeding up the growing process and to deal with this so early in the year can be the pits.

"Once the buds start to swell, they start vulnerability, if we've got a long road until we get out of the cold, we'll start to see some damage," said Riley. 

The larger chance we have to see a cold snap or snow storm makes it a forced gamble for growers.

Last year, Logan saw a snow storm that produced several inches of accumulation on May 17th, so you can't rule out the possibility of winter making a comeback.

This is also the first year that farmers had to wonder if their fruit trees would get enough "chill units." A certain amount of chill units are needed or else a tree won't completely go into dormancy and produce fruit.

The trees are in the clear this year, but Jordan Riley said it's crazy to even have to consider that in Utah.

"On the fruit highway, old timers will say, oh 2015, we haven't seen a year quite like that before, then 2016 wow, we've never seen a hail storm like that before, and moving on to 2018, there doesn't seem like there is going to be a new normal," said Riley. 

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