One of the region’s coldest winters in two decades may have harmed this season’s Michigan fruit crop, said a report released earlier this month by the Michigan Farm Bureau.
“There certainly is going to be some bud damage and potential damage to wood. … We’ll see damage to cherries, peaches, grapes and blueberries,” said Ken Nye, horticulture and forestry specialist for MFB, in the report.
The bureau expects that fruits such as peaches, plums, apricots and sweet cherries will have the biggest losses, and apples and pears will have less damage.
Apples are a fruit that weather the winter relatively unscathed, said Diane Smith, executive director for the Michigan Apple Association. “I was out in the orchards [recently] and the trees are where they’re suppose to be this time of year. They’re still dormant. We’re not anticipating any problems,” she said.
Smith said apple trees are very hardy and are able to withstand temperatures up to -25 degrees. Growers have reported broken branches, she said.
The challenges facing blueberries are both environmental and man-made, according to MFB. “Because the winter was so hard and so long, counties had to use more salt than normal. Road salt dries up blueberry plants,” said Nye. In a report on the Michigan State University Extension website, the Extension estimates that in areas when temperatures dropped below 0 degrees for several days, winter damage to blueberries could range from 20% to 61%.
Some wine grapes on the Lake Michigan coastline have also hurt by the cold temperatures, the report said, with pinot blanc, pinot noir and cabernet franc expected to see at least a 50% loss and riesling and chardonnay grapes expected to have about a 25% loss. “Those are rough numbers, though. It’s too early to access the damage accurately,” said Nye.
“We’ll see some damage for sure, but it’s too soon to hit the panic button.” Nye noted that continued cool weather this spring would give 2014 crops the best conditions for survival. “The way we’re set up now is we might have the kind of spring we can get through without too much frost damage. … Fruit growers will take a long, slow warm-up over a sudden temperature shift any time.”
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