Frozen Fruit? May freeze puts Michigan’s fruit crops in peril

Cherry Orchard ... spring snow

Cherry Orchard … spring snow, photo by Ken Scott

The National Weather Service noted that the high temperature yesterday at the Otsego County Airport in Gaylord only reached 35 degrees – a new record for the coldest high temperature for the date that crushed the previous record of 44 degrees from 2003. It was also the coldest high temperature ever recorded in the month of May for Gaylord. They notched a record snowfall of 2 inches as well, beating the old record of 1 inch from 1971.

Temperatures dipped into the 20s across the state last night. Although the word isn’t in yet about the effect those temps have had, an mLive article about the apple crop on Fruit Ridge explains:

As fruit trees begin to develop and blossom each spring, their ability to withstand cold temperatures is greatly reduced. As bloom nears, temperatures in the upper 20-degree can cause considerable damage to early blooming crop varieties.

Currently on the area’s Fruit Ridge — a band of ideal growing land northwest of Grand Rapids — several different varieties of apples are in bloom, said Armock. Also, sweet cherries are nearly past bloom in some areas, he said. Tart cherries are in the flowering stage of bloom, as well as some varieties of strawberries and blueberries.

In fact, across the state, growers have been making preparations for “potentially the largest crop of apples and cherries that we’ve ever seen,” said Armock, who estimated the 2013 crop could yield between 30 and 34 million bushels of apples this year, from Traverse City down to the state line.

Read on for more, and here’s hoping their efforts at bringing in helicopters last night paid off. After the near total destruction of the apple, tart cherry and other crops last year, it would be a hard blow to stand.

View Ken’s photo on black and see more in his massive Leelanau slideshow.


Trouble for Tart Cherries

Beautiful Blossoms 5320-11
Beautiful Blossoms 5320-11, photo by StacyN – MichiganMoments

Cherry blossoms are out a full month early in Michigan, and our “Summer in March” appears to have claimed much of Northern Michigan’s 2012 tart cherry crop. Interlochen Public Radio reports:

A spring freeze last week across Northwest Michigan killed more than half of the buds on tart cherry trees. Industry officials estimate the loss for the region in the 50 to 70 percent range. Trees can produce a decent crop if a third of the buds survive. But several factors, including another freeze this spring, could still damage more of the crop before harvest.

Leelanau County saw the heaviest loss, estimated at as high as 90 percent of sour cherries killed in many orchards. But other fruit trees, like apple and sweet cherries, are in decent shape.

Antrim & Benzie county crops appear to be in better shape, but with a hard frost out there this morning, it’s probably not over yet.

Stacy took this shot last May just south of Traverse City. Check this out bigger and in her Spring slideshow.

Cherry Blossom Time in Michigan

Cherry Blossom Time, Benzie County Michigan by John Clement Howe

Cherry Blossom Time, Benzie County Michigan, photo by John Clement Howe.

The photo is part of John’s amazing Benzie County! photo set (slideshow) and it’s no coincidence that the next photo is a tasty looking morel mushroom – both cherry blossoms and morels are found at the same time of year!

Every May, the cherry trees of Michigan burst forth in white clouds of splendor, and dwelling as I do in the heart of Michigan’s cherry country, I am lucky enough to have a front row seat. I was struck by how little presence Michigan has in the cherry blossom information that can be found online. We’re just an afterthought on Wikipedia’s Sakura (cherry blossom) entry and event a search for Michigan cherry blossoms yields mostly Japanese restaurants.

I suppose that the fruit has become the bigger deal, but it wasn’t always that way. In their History of the National Cherry Festival, the Agile Writer notes that the Festival began in 1910 with a prayer ceremony for a good cherry crop. It was formalized in 1925, when the cherry growers partnered with Traverse City merchants to create the “Blessing of the Blossoms Festival” to promote the region and the cherry business.

Picking Apples, W. Golden Orchard 1894 … or thereabouts

Picking Apples, W. Golden Orchard 1894

Picking Apples, W. Golden Orchard 1894, photo courtesy Archives of Michigan

The Image of the Month for October 2007 from the Archives of Michigan begin:

This photo depicts apple pickers in the Old Mission Peninsula. It was taken in the early 1890’s. (The caption on the front of the photo gives the year as “1894.” However, identifying information on the back gives the year as “1891.” The exact date, then, is uncertain.)

Michigan’s “fruit belt” strides the shore of Lake Michigan. The Lake itself plays a key role. It functions as a moderating body, preventing temperatures from getting too cold in the fall and too hot in the summer. It also provides the frequent rainfall that fruit farmers require. This climate combines with rich soil and regional topography to provide ideal fruit-growing conditions.

Michigan’s fruit industry started to boom about the time of the Civil War. By then, Chicago’s growing population had provided a ready market. Transportation improvements (notably the expansion of railroads) provided greater access to this and other population centers.

Read on for more about this and other great photos from Michigan’s past, and if you’d like to learn more about apples in the present day, check out the first ever Absolute Michigan Word of the Week: Apples!

Michigan Orchard in Snow

Michigan Orchard in Snow

Michigan Orchard in Snow, photo by coonjamm.

Today’s photo of a cherry orchard near near Paw Paw from February will hopefully remind those of us tempted to complain about the heat of other things we could complain about.

I’d also like to call attention to Van Buren County, Michigan our latest Michigan shoreline county article on Absolute Michigan.