TRENTON (March 11, 2017)- With the state expected to plunge into a deep freeze tonight and for the next several days, the Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Agriculture are working cooperatively to allow farmers to do controlled open burning or use specialized torches known as smudge pots to protect flowering crops from damage.
Temperatures are expected to drop into the low 20s and upper teens tonight in southern New Jersey and dip to as low as 11 degrees in northern parts of the state, with more of the same through the weekend. Highs during the weekend are expected to be in the low 30s in southern New Jersey and mid-20s in the northern part of the state.
This freeze follows unusually warm temperatures in recent weeks that coaxed some economically important fruit tree crops to bud much earlier than normal. The DEP has approved the use of smudge pots and open burns through at least Monday.
Peach, blueberry and apple crops are particularly susceptible. Damage from freezing weather now can significantly reduce yields of these crops later in the season.
The DEP and Department of Agriculture are allowing these steps to protect farmers' livelihoods and to ensure that consumers will be able to enjoy an ample supply of Jersey produce later this year. New Jersey is among the nation's leaders in blueberry and peach production. Blueberry production is focused in the Pinelands of Burlington County.
Peach orchards can be found throughout the state, with Gloucester County ranking among the nation's leaders in peach production. New Jersey also sustains a vibrant apple industry, with orchards found around 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 1-877- 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 must notify DEP by 9 a.m. the following day. The farmer will be asked which technique was used.
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 and 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 crop and wind velocity is less than 5mph. 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.