Early Reports on Michigan Fruit Crop Are Devastating

April 20, 2012 at 4:55 pm

Summer in March, when temperatures rose to over 80 degrees in some places, led to an early budding of fruit trees in Michigan. This made them susceptible to killing by a later frost, which over the past two weeks, has happened in various parts of Michigan. The Michigan State University Extension has reported at least two freezes in early April when lows went down to the 20s. Although the damage is still being assessed, this leaves the 2012 crop in doubt.

In Southwest Michigan, farmers planting juice grapes (which advance faster than wine grapes) were reporting an approximate ninety-five percent loss of their primary buds. (This year, concord bud break was about 20 days early.) Some tree fruit farmers are reporting variable losses depending upon where the trees were planted or their maturity. Some farmers reported almost full losses while others were more hopeful that some areas of their orchards fared better. The most optimistic are holding out hope for a later secondary growth. Wine grapes have not developed as much as juice grapes, and are generally planted in better sites, so they suffered less injury. Wally Maurer, grower and winemaker for Domain Berrien, reported a “reduced crop,“ and extensive loss to Chardonnay grapes in particular.

In Northwest Michigan, sweet cherries are faring better than tart cherries. Sweet cherries made it past certain frosts in decent shape, although some farmers were worried about the lack of honeybees. Tart cherry damage is evident, and although the damage is still being assessed, it is conservatively rated at less than a full crop; however, some in Leelanau County are placing losses at ninety-percent. As for wine grapes, any damage at the bud stage varies vineyard-to-vineyard and vine-to-vine, with some buds still dormant and others like Chardonnay and Riesling showing late bud swell.

Blueberry farmers in both areas are using overhead irrigation to control frost.

Primary source: MSU Extension Weekly Reports