NJDEP, DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE EXTEND ALLOWING FARMERS TO USE OPEN BURNS AND SMUDGE POTS TO PROTECT CROPS AGAINST CONTINUED OVERNIGHT FROST THREATS

April 6, 2016

(TRENTON, N.J.) ― With overnight temperatures in many parts of the state expected to continue to be near or below freezing for the foreseeable future, the Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Agriculture will continue to allow farmers to conduct controlled open burning or use specialized torches known as smudge pots to protect flowering crops from frost damage.

Forecasts call for near-freezing temperatures in many parts of the state through at least the coming weekend, a situation that could affect fruit and vegetable crops, as well as flowers in bloom or near bloom. Peaches, blueberries and apples are particularly susceptible. Frost damage now can significantly reduce yields of these crops later in the season.

The DEP and Department of Agriculture are extending the allowing of open burns and use of smudge pots to protect farmers’ livelihoods and to ensure that consumers will be able to enjoy an ample supply of Jersey produce later this year. The use of these practices under certain conditions is being extended indefinitely.

The DEP and Department of Agriculture last week initially announced the practices would be allowed through April 5, but forecasts call for persistent cold overnight temperatures. The use of smudge pots and controlled burns can help keep orchard and field temperatures just warm enough to avert extensive damage when frost danger is greatest. Frost threat is typically highest in the early morning hours before dawn, when there is little or no wind and skies are clear.

New Jersey is among the nation’s leaders in blueberry and peach production. Blueberry production is focused in the Pinelands of Burlington County. Peach and apple orchards can be found throughout more rural areas of the state.

Farmers who believe they will need to conduct open burns and/or use smudge pots must provide notice to the DEP’s 24-hour Communications Center at 877- WARNDEP (1-877-927-6337.) Notification to DEP does not require the implementation of either technique but ensures proper procedures are followed should they become necessary.

If a farmer does not call DEP in advance but uses either technique, the farmer may notify DEP the morning following the use of either technique but no later than 9 a.m.

Farmers must record the incident number provided to them by the Communications Center.
The following information is to be provided:

* Name of the individual making the decision to conduct the open burning/use of smudge pots;
* Name of the farm;
* Actual street address of the farm on which either technique will be used (no P.O. boxes);
* Telephone number of a contact at the farm;
* Predicted temperature (in degrees Fahrenheit) at the agricultural operation when the technique will be used;
* Wind speed anticipated when the technique will be used ;
* Predicted hours of open burning and/or use of smudge pots;
* Materials expected to be burned.

At the time of the initial call to the Communications Center, farmers will be given an email address and incident number. Within two days, they must submit to DEP via this email address the following information:

* The DEP Communications Center incident number;
* Ambient temperature (in degrees Fahrenheit) at the time the technique was used;
* Actual wind speed at the orchard at the time the technique was used;
* A statement verifying that all restrictions in the open burning or use of smudge pots were followed.

No open burning will be permitted unless the temperature within the orchard area is at or below the critical temperature for the bud stage for that particular crop and wind velocity is less than five miles per hour. Smudge pots must be fueled only with either kerosene or No. 2 fuel oil.

Open burning can consist only of either the following materials: clean and untreated scrap lumber, felled trees, clippings pruned from trees and shrubs, hedgerows or firewood. Absolutely no refuse, trade waste, tires or garbage of any type may be added to the authorized open burning material.

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