In late March I posted about the danger posed to Midwestern fruit trees by frosts that followed days of uncharacteristically warm spring. With apple season now upon us, NPR yesterday ran a report from Noah Adams on the drastically reduced numbers of fruit that resulted in Michigan:
Michigan is the third-largest apple producer in the U.S. after New York and Washington, but the state’s apples will soon be in short supply. Now in the middle of harvest season, growers are picking only 10 percent to 15 percent of their normal crop….
[Michigan State University Extension agent Amy] Irish-Brown says last fall’s mild weather, followed by a mild winter with lots of rain and little snow, was the start of the problem. Then, in March, temperatures rose into the 80s.
“That mild winter, no frost in the ground … as soon as that warm weather came and lasted for a whole week, the trees just started growing,” Irish-Brown says.
The trees, sensing spring, broke dormancy. Buds, blossoms and even tiny 5-millimeter apples appeared. But winter wasn’t done yet, and on April 27, temperatures plummeted below freezing. Irish-Brown says that in some of the lowest areas on the Ridge, it went down to 22 degrees.
Those conditions have resulted in yields so low that farmers, farm workers, and processors are all facing tough economic times in the months ahead. The full story is worth a read or a listen, so check out the print and audio versions here.