How will return of freezing temperatures impact growing crops in Czechia?

After nearly a week of temperatures in the mid-20s Celsius, Czechs are having to put their winter coats back on as the weather dips below freezing. But the sudden change doesn’t only impact our clothing choice – it has an even more detrimental effect on the crops that have begun to grow and respond to the warm temperatures. To understand more, I spoke with Miroslav Havránek, a researcher from the Charles University Environment Centre.

Photo: Loreta Vašková,  Radio Prague International

“If you think about it in the bigger picture, the impact will be a loss of crops and yields. The trees that had already started to bloom – like cherries and peaches. Some of these trees will have lower yields, and in some extreme cases, lose their production completely. Other impacts could be the stunting of growth, which would also cause smaller yields. It’s very unfortunate, because we had a very warm February and part of March, and nature started to react to it like it was real spring. Now we are getting temperatures that are below zero, and freezing temperatures are always going to harm crops.”

This is more of an economic question, but does this mean that produce like peaches, apples, plums – things that grow on trees – are going to be more expensive at the grocery store because of a potentially smaller yield?

“It might, but in reality we will have to wait and see. There are a lot of things that can influence the final yield, and the Czech Republic is part of the European Common Market, so it will be conditional on the impacts the weather is having on crops throughout Europe. We are also expecting a dry summer because of the high temperatures that we’ve already experienced this year. If we look at the map of droughts, we can already see a deficit in the water in our soil, and this could be a much more harmful impact than this short cold spell we’re going to experience. It’s hard to say how the impacts will be visible, but they are certainly not going to increase yields.”

These unpredictable weather patterns are not anything new. They are becoming more common with climate change. Do growers and farmers have to start thinking about different ways to grow their crops, like in greenhouses to protect their yields from the unpredictable climate?

“Definitely. Starting with droughts, there are already indications that some farmers are thinking about irrigating crops in terms of these cold spells. There are technological solutions that you can do as a farmer that will protect your orchards from the below zero temperatures in the medium or long term, but these solutions require preparation and they are expensive. This would mean that the prices of product would go up in the end for consumers. What we are seeing is increasing unpredictability. The difference between low and high temperatures is getting so much bigger.”