Fruit-tree farmers’ freeze fears

Warm weather in early spring doesn’t just cause shorts and flip-flops to appear — it also encourages fruit trees to blossom early. In areas of the country that still have a good chance to experience frigid weather before summer settles in, this can be extremely worrisome for farmers. Once the flowers of a fruit tree bloom, a severe frost can have dire consequences.

Last week Dan Goldberg penned this piece for The Star-Ledger on how the return of overnight lows in the 20s could pose “real damage … to farmers, who are scrambling to save their crop, particularly fruit trees, which bloomed early because of the [recent] warm weather. Most vegetables are still safely underground, protected by the soil, but blueberries, apples, nectarines, plums and peaches could be in jeopardy, said Pete Furey, executive director of the New Jersey Farm Bureau.”

As Kate Wells reports for Harvest Public Media, similar concerns face apple farmers in Iowa. “The worst case scenario would be a really hard freeze that wipes out the whole industry,” Wells was told by Paul Domoto, professor of horticulture and extension fruit specialist at Iowa State University. For Wells’s full report, click here and press the play button to hear the informative, 3-minute audio story.

Worries like this aren’t absent even in the warmer climate of Tennessee. As Steve Hardy’s recent piece for Times Free Press details: “Chuck McSpadden tends nearly 20,000 trees at Apple Valley in Cleveland, Tenn. His trees are a week or two ahead of schedule after mild winter temperatures, but he still can’t harvest until July. And he won’t feel safe until May 1, when the threat of a late-season frost should be gone.”

Finally, check out the really lovely, high-quality video below that was posted earlier this week. It focuses on the Apple Castle family farm in Wilmington Township, Pennsylvania, as they prepare for a possible frost.

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