SPARTA, Mich. — Local fruit farmers believe the damage to their crops will be minimal this year following concerns over a few days of below-freezing temperatures last week.
“They don’t like the cold so much,” said Nick Schweitzer, operations manager at Schweitzer Orchard in Sparta.
Tree by tree, Schweitzer checked his apple clusters on Monday and hoped to see bright green in the flowers’ center rather than brown, which is a sign of damage.
Schweitzer ran fans last Wednesday and Thursday to keep the air warm enough and applied a treatment that tricks trees into thinking damaged buds were fertilized.
A few days later, he expects 70-100 percent of the crop to survive.
“The spring is always an anxious time for growers because we always usually have some type of freeze or frost event,” said Schweitzer. “We don’t know how severe or what the impact will be based on our development stage. Luckily this year it seems we made through it alright.”
According to Michigan Farm Bureau, it’s similar for other farms across the region.
Audrey Sebolt, a horticulture specialist, said areas north and west of Grand Rapids have reported little to no damage. In southwest Michigan, she says farms close to Lake Michigan believe it helped protect their crops since it tends to be a few degrees warmer. For counties in the area farther away from the lake, Sebolt said farms are dealing with some damage, but nothing significant.
“So far we’re not hearing any catastrophic losses,” said Sebolt.
Sebolt says while warm, March temperatures put the season ahead by two weeks, no flowers were in bloom, which is when serious damage occurs, like in 2012.
“We expect consumers to be able to go to their favorite U-pick, farmer’s market, or large grocery store to purchase Michigan produce,” said Sebolt.
However, the outlook could change with an additional freeze or other unseasonable weather. Seabolt says mild temperatures, dry conditions, and little wind are needed.
Schweitzer says he’s waiting for the end of May when that usually happens.
“I’ll be glad when we’re through this frost phase and I don’t have to stay or get up and be up all night and tending the frost fans,” said Schweitzer.