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Apple farmers prepare for freeze, don't want repeat of 2012

Posted at 7:25 PM, May 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-07 05:54:29-04

ST. JOHNS, Mich. — Our expected freezing temperatures headed into the weekend can do major damage to one of Michigan's most important crops.

That had some apple farmers on Wednesday already preparing for the spring showdown with Mother Nature.

"(All it takes is) a very cold night," said Mike Beck, owner of Uncle John's Cider Mill. "It's just like doing your china in a laundry tub."

Beck is closely watching the forecast, just like everyone else, hoping for the best this weekend.

"The one thing that will help is if it stays cool, some cool nights. We can keep the blossoms from getting open because that's when it's most dangerous," Beck said.

His farm, and so many others, is hoping to not have a repeat of what happened back in 2012.

"We didn't harvest a single piece of fruit," said Beck.

Jeff Andresen is a climatologist for the state of Michigan and is also a professor at Michigan State. He said a freeze so late in the spring can happen, but they're not typically common.

"One of the magnitude that we could potentially see this weekend, that is unusual," said Andresen.

That 2012 winter was extremely mild, which led to a bizarre month of March.

"You have to call it a heatwave. We had daily temperatures in the 80s," Andresen said.

That warm, so early, would later lead to catastrophic effects -- when Mother Nature decided to return to what March is usually like in Michigan.

"It just decimated the fruit crops, killed the blossoms and blooms, and there was just very little fruit," said Andresen.

As far as this year, there is a silver lining. Andresen said most crops are a little behind where they normally are.

"The longer it takes them to come out of this over-wintering state, the better they are able to cope or adapt with this spring freezing temperatures," he said.

But Beck might have the best advice of all.

"There's not much you can do besides hope and pray."

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