Michigan 2012 Fruit Crops Damaged by Unseasonable Weather

By Marilisa Kinney Sachteleben
Yahoo News

Michigan’s roller coaster weather of the last few months is wreaking havoc with several different crops, particularly fruit, says Michigan Radio . Several varieties are all but wiped out and some farmers are saying the 2012 season may be one of the worst the state’s agricultural history. Here are details.

In March, Michiganders experienced a spate of unseasonably warm days with temperatures as high as the mid-80s. This kicked off budding and pollination almost two months early. Farmers knew that if frost and freezing weather returned as it was very likely to do, their crops were done for, says the Ludington Daily News .

Last week much of Michigan experienced a cold snap. The low temperatures and heavy frosts damaged many of the state’s most important fruit harvests. The tart cherry crop is all but ruined and other fruits including apples, sweet cherries, peaches and pears have suffered. Cherry Republic distributor Bob Sutherland has already ordered 150,000 pounds of tart cherries from Poland to supplement his sales. Juice grapes took a beating, too, says the Associated Press .

Grower Roy Hackett told the Ludington Daily News that the combination high and low did more damage to crops than even chemical pruning would do. Fruit buyers were notified to expect less product than normal. Hackett says plans have been made to cut down tree treatments to the most basic maintenance so that they may have a better harvest next season.

David Rabe, an Oceana County, Mich., farmer told the Associated Press that he’s expecting only his asparagus to survive. Rabe has been in agriculture all his life and says this is the worst fruit crop devastation in his experience.

West Michigan’s Fruit Ridge area, one of the state’s prime growing areas, is reporting heavy damage to their apple, sweet cherry and peach crop, says MLive . Even Fruit Ridge’s hilly terrain, which normally protects it from early frosts, was no match for Sunday’s killer frost. Several smaller growers in the West Michigan area, including Blok and Seitsema Orchards lost their entire apple crop and much of their peach crop, says another MLive article.

Riveridge Produce Marketing president Don Armock, of Sparta, Mich., said that farmers in the Fruit Ridge area brought in heaters, helicopters and wind machines to circulate air when the cold spell was predicted last week. After Sunday’s frost, Armock says they found many dead buds, making it hard to predict exactly what percentage of the apple crop would survive. The region produces 65 percent of Michigan’s apple harvest.