Apple orchards holding their own... (4-13-12)
It was another frosty morning across central New York this morning. While Syracuse only dropped to 39 F we received numerous weather watcher reports of temperatures at or below 32 F. South of Syracuse there were reports of 20s so things were touch and go at the apple orchards. The wind machines were cranked up between 3 am and 7 am this morning keeping the air stirred up. On a still night, the coldest air tends to settle into the lowest elevations, like the valleys near LaFayette. Artificially keep the air moving with the wind machines and the cold air can’t settle. They figured last night it made a 3 degree difference ( 30 F instead of 27 F). Luckily, however, temperatures weren’t as low as they were on the morning of March 27th.
On that morning it dropped to 18 F in the orchards and the folks and Beak and Skiff said they had 40% damage to the buds. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that there is going to be 40% less apples come fall. At the time, I talked to Mark Fleckenstein who runs the Beak and Skiff orchards and he told me that 100% of the buds do not produce 100% of the apples. If you looked at buds on a tree you would see why. If each bud produced a fruit the branches would not be able to support all the apples. Typically only 10% of the buds produce apples. That means after that night in the teens there were only 60% of the buds left but still plenty to produce fruit. It is kind of like mother nature’s redundancy or backup plan.The good news is that in spite of frosty weather last week and last night there hasn’t been much additional damage to the buds. After Friday night/Saturday morning the threat for frost looks limited heading into the end of next week. However, the folks in LaFayette won’t rest easy until we make it through mid May. The typical last day of frost in Syracuse is April 29th and in 5 out of the last 10 years we’ve had a frost in the month of May. Mark told me that by next Friday the buds will have grown into blossoms and that means instead of damage occurring at 28 F that threshold rises to just 32 F.The frost issues are not confined just to central New York but all the way back into the Great Lakes and Midwest. The damage to cherry trees has been particularly bad in northern Michigan over the last two weeks. In some orchards the damage is 90%! I did a quick scan of reports elsewhere and saw there are pockets of damage in southwest Michigan, northern Indiana and Wisconsin.
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