temperature/time causing freeze injury

creekweb(6,7)November 1, 2010

Can someone tell me what the lowest temperature/ time at that temperature that fig fruits can withstand without sustaining freeze injury? I am trying to gauge whether what I think are brown turkey figs will be able to withstand 30F for about 2 hours. Thanks.

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I read in a book that the ideal temperature in winter for figs is 35-45. Lower than 35 they die and higher than 45 they bloom. It is a catch 22 LOL

    Bookmark   November 2, 2010 at 7:13PM
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>>> Lower than 35 they die...
Make that "lower than 20 *F, they [may] die"...
which is the temp my mature figs (garage stored) do survive.
Some people may claim lower temps - maybe 15 *F ?!?

Also, along with freeze temps; (any) cold-drying-winds
do kill (unprotected figs) much faster...

    Bookmark   November 2, 2010 at 8:35PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

CW - you may find these copy/paste jobs of comments I left on other threads to be of some interest:

Your question more closely asks what temperatures will my tree tolerate, but it leaves unanswered the question of what temps are best. It would be best if you could keep actual soil temperatures above 25 and below 42* for the winter. Here is a longer explanation about cold-hardiness I left on this forum previously. If it leaves you with questions, just ask:

Commonly, each species of plant has a general range of cold-hardiness. Within species and cultivar, cold-hardiness is genetically determined. That is to say that a plant that is propagated from cuttings or tissue culture will have the same ability to resist cold as the parent plant. Plants cannot "develop" a greater degree of cold-hardiness by repeated or prolonged exposure to cold, even after 100 years (trees).

If we pick any plant at random, it may or may not be able to withstand freezing temperatures. The determining factor is the plants ability to prevent freezing of bound water. Bound water is the water inside of cells.

There are actually three kinds of water to consider when we discuss "freezing". The water held in soil - When this water freezes, and it can freeze the soil mass solid, it doesn't necessarily kill the plant or tissues. Then there is free or unbound water, also called inter-cellular water. This is water that is found in plant tissues, but is outside of living cells cells. This water can also freeze solid and not kill the plant. The final type of water is bound water or intra-cellular water. If temperatures drop low enough to freeze this water, the cell/tissue/plant dies. This is the freeze damage that kills plants.

Fortunately, nature has an antifreeze. Even though temperatures drop well below freezing, all plants don't die. In hardy plants, physiological changes occur as temperatures drop. The plant moves solutes (sugars, salts, starches) into cells and moves water out of cells to inter-cellular spaces in tissues. These solutes act as antifreeze, allowing water in cells to remain liquid to sometimes extremely low temperatures. The above is a description of super-cooling in plants. Some plants even take advantage of another process to withstand very low temps called intra-cellular dehydration.

The roots of your trees can stay frozen for extended periods or go through multiple freeze/thaw cycles w/o damage, so long as the temperature does not fall below that required to freeze intra-cellular water. If roots remain frozen, but temperatures remain above killing lows, dessication is the primary concern. If the tree is able to take up water, but temperatures are too low for the tree to grow and make food, stored energy becomes the critical issue. Dormant and quiescent trees are still using energy from their reserves (like a drain on a battery). If those reserves are depleted before the tree can produce photosynthesizing mass, the organism dies.

There are a number of factors that have some affect on the cold-hardiness of individual plants, some of which are length of exposure to seasonal cold, water availability (drought stressed plants are more cold tolerant), how recently planted/repotted, etc

No one can give a definitive answer that even comes close to accurately assessing the temperature at which bound water will freeze that covers the whole species. Unbound water is of little concern & will usually freeze somewhere around 28*.
Some material will be able to withstand little cold & roots could freeze/die at (actual) root temperatures as warm as 25-27*. Other plants may tolerate much colder actual root temperatures - as low as 10*. There's just no way of knowing unless you have a feeling for how cold-tolerant the genetic material the plant was derived from might be, and finding out is expensive (from the plant's perspective). ;o) Another example of this genetic variance is that trees found growing and fruiting well closer to the equator need no chill time, while other trees, derived of genetic stock from a more northerly provenance may need a period of chill to grow with optimum vitality in the subsequent growth period/cycle.

It's wise to remember that root death isn't instantaneous at one particular temperature. Roots succumb to cold over a range of chill with cultural conditions affecting the process. The finest roots will die first, and the slightly thicker and more lignified roots will follow, with the last of the roots to succumb being the more perennial and thickest roots.

Since any root death is a setback from an energy allocation perspective, and root regeneration takes valuable time, it's probably best to keep actual root temperatures in the 25-40* range as long as we can when the tree is resting, even though the organism as a whole could tolerate much lower temperatures. Even well established trees become very much like cuttings if all but the roots essential to keep the tree viable are lost to cold. Regeneration of roots is an expensive energy outlay and causes the trees to leaf out later than they normally would and shortens the natural growth period and reduces the potential increase in biomass for the next growth cycle and perhaps beyond.


We know that when trees are exposed to freezing, the finest hair roots - the ones that do the lions share of the work are the first to die. In many woody plants, these roots begin to die as soil temperatures drop below 30-32*. As temperatures drop further, larger and larger roots succumb to killing low temperatures. The point is - that many trees that SURVIVE are left with only the largest roots to support them because much of the rootage has frozen. These trees are slow to respond in the spring because they need to utilize stored energy to regenerate lost rootage before they can move sufficient water and the nutrients dissolved in water to support either growth or the flush of foliage that makes the food that allows the tree to grow (this, in the case of deciduous material).

So, while trees might survive exposure to borderline killing low temperatures unprotected, we KNOW it is better for the tree, especially from an energy management perspective, if we give them protection that ensures actual root temperatures don't drop low enough to kill even the finest roots. For most temperate trees, that means we should strive to keep low root temperatures in the upper 20s at their lowest, and below 42* to keep them from growing until spring when we can get them into good light w/o worrying about frost/freeze.

Hope that helped.


    Bookmark   November 2, 2010 at 10:22PM
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Thanks very much for the responses to my question, but what I am mostly trying to figure out is the temperature/ time at that temperature that figs would first show damage to the fruit. For example orange trees can tolerate 28F for some time, but it is known that 28F for 4 hours will damage much of the fruit, so if this is forecast, the growers take emergency action to save the crop. There is no such statistic for figs that I could find, but I was wondering if someone through past experience could guestimate what the lowest temp a fig fruit could take without damage to the fruit itself. Thanks.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2010 at 2:44PM
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I have plenty of fig trees in ground and in pots and I never cover them or protect them. it gets last year it was in the low teens in my area, and everything did fine. If its in the ground you will be fine.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2010 at 5:30PM
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My experience.... I have a B.T. that is 8 years old, in ground and 12 feet all. Loaded with figs this year.
It has survived many below 32 F. days and nights. And, a short flirt with 18 F. did not hurt it.
Near my home is an Italian restaurant with huge,old fig tree growing happily and on a highway, next to abandon structure is another large fig tree that has also survived many winters of low 20F nights. But, grape vine is about to cover this fig tree now.
So, as to survival of your trees, all I can offer is
that some can survive and bear great crops after freezing and below. Fred

    Bookmark   November 4, 2010 at 10:13AM
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If it is about the fig fruit freezing, then there should not be a big problem. Unlike Orange fruit, fig fruit should still be worthy of eating if frozen. I always see frozen figs in vacccum packed bags in the grocery supermarkets that people buy, then thaw them and eat.
So, if your fruits were ripe and froze (then thaw) you can still use them. Discard the one which were not ripe. However, it seems too early for the figs to get frozen hard.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2010 at 12:06PM
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Hi Creekweb,
you write this below
Can someone tell me what the lowest temperature/ time at that temperature that fig fruits can withstand without sustaining freeze injury? I am trying to gauge whether what I think are brown turkey figs will be able to withstand 30F for about 2 hours. Thanks.

I dont grow brown turkey but have other dark types , this season my violet de bordeaux and mission experienced several frost as they were getting ripe the lowest temps was 28F several days afterwards they were picked and tasted fine but did notice a dimish in taste somewhat late in my area's season for figs near Chicago.

I know you mean can ripe fig on tree be able to withstand freezing temps for several hours and the answer is YES it will be just fine , except to person that has cold sensitive teeth that need to see dentist. ; )
Ebay Id - Dieseler6z92

    Bookmark   November 4, 2010 at 12:21PM
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sergnic(z9 Italy)

I'm happy to found an answer as this of tapla, complete correct, and well explained.
I note however that there is not the connection between the description (absolutely complete and correct) and the variabled that are in the hands of the men, or in the climate.

How is it produced the antifreeze in wood, roots, and also (also) in the fruits????
I live in Italy, and I've had a good experience in fig trees, cultivation and study about.

My zone is 9a (repeat 9a!!!!!!), in my orchard with exceptional low temp. of 21°F (repeat 21°F!!!!) my trees was seriously damaged on the branches apexes in winter.
Why??? Because my orchard is in a rich soil in a wet, not sunny valley.
For poor sun irradiation in these exceptional year trees to not accumulate enough starch (excellent anti freze!) in the wood that is also the nourishments for the future times.
The fall was rainy and extremely wet: the apexes of the branches remaining herbaceous (in December) as a cabbage!

My familiar problems do not permitted me to mow the grass all round the trees, that cram a lot (and continuosly) water up to December (with temp over 45, 50°F and more).
As may know tapla, is possible that in these condition there are genetically varieties more resistant, or better more or less efficient in elaboration of antifreeze, glucosides, starch, floematic mineral, attitude to produce weack dangerous herbaceous sprouts..., and so on.

But WHY the same (same) variety does suffer in the rainy wet-warm London at 18°F, and do not suffer in Geneve (Switzerland) in a poor extremely sunny and in dry slope at 5°F????
In said slope rocky and poor wood become hard as bone.

In Synthesis:
Too much manure in summer and fall, (overall in NITROGEN),
Too much watering in summer,
Not enough sun (real, not theoretical=hours of complete sun irradiation per day)
Do not mow grass all round the trees, (how much is slow the metabolism for insufficent temperature in the soil, and excess of moist?).
Sugar of fruits is an excellent anti-freeze, but if water dilutes the sugar....
.....are certain conditions to obtain disastrous damages.

Of course we do not have choice for sun, rain or ambiental temp.,
but we have in control: watering, mowing manure and location (hours of sun irradiation of the trees).
I think that this is a lot MORE important and dramatic than the characteristics of varieties, that I admit, of course are existing.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2010 at 4:52PM
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sergnic(z9 Italy)

The meaning of that my text (a bit out of the way..) is:
there is no answer if the composition and consistence of juice, pulp, wood, peels, cortex, ARE UNKNOWN.
Bye, SergNic

    Bookmark   November 4, 2010 at 5:00PM
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