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Warm weather has local farmers concerned

Posted at 7:47 AM, Feb 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-21 10:15:35-05

"2012 we did lose all of the apples here at the country mill,” Steve Tennes, the owner of Country Mill Orchard said. “As many farmers did."

That's because Michigan experienced a winter heatwave just like the one we're having now, it makes the trees think it's springtime so the fruit flowers start to bud. The more they grow the less cold weather they can handle.

"So they might survive right now at 10 degrees,” Professor Gregory Lang said. “But after a week of warm temperatures, they might start to be damaged at 18 degrees."

And if that happens Professor Lang says that means prices will go up-- in the meantime farmers are hoping the weather gets cold again quickly so the trees will realize it's not spring time yet-- it'll slow down the budding process before they lose crops.

"As farmers we live with risk,” Tennes said. “Right now there's no damage. But it is a cause for concern, because we need to make sure our apple trees can get through the month of April."

Now it's still in mother nature's hands whether these buds are going to make it through April or not. In the meantime there are tools that farmers can use to help them survive.

"One of the things we use is a frost fan that helps on those cold April nights, that helps bring the warm air back down into the orchard,” Tennes said.

They also spray water on the buds tricking them into thinking it's a little colder outside. Other than that they just have to hope for consistency in the weather.

"January it's cold,” Tennes said. “February it should still be cold. We're enjoying the warm temperature, but our trees need the cold to go back to sleep, hit the snooze button and remain dormant for a few more weeks until the end of March when they can really wake up."