Growers of apples and other fruit in the northeastern U.S. are assessing crop damage from overnight temperatures that fell into the teens in some areas after an unseasonably warm winter prompted early blooms.
“We probably skirted major damage, but we do have damage,” said Brian Nicholson, who raises apples on 400 acres near Geneva, New York, where the overnight low was 22 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 6 Celsius). “I guess we’re happy it’s not worse.”
An unusually warm winter has prompted New York’s iconic McIntosh apples and other crops to flower early throughout the Northeast, exposing the fruit to potential frost damage. Apple and apricot trees, berry bushes and grape vines have emerged from winter dormancy about three weeks early, according to Jim Allen, president of the New York Apple Association in Fishers.
New York has produced an average of 30 million bushels of apples (42 pounds per bushel) a year since 2007, and is the largest grower of McIntosh apples in the U.S. The 2011 crop was worth $270 million to growers, according to the association.
Damage will be determined by “location, location, location,” said Harry Humphreys, who grows grapes and apples outside Dundee, New York. Farms farther from lakes may be colder for longer periods than those near water, he said.
It will take about 36 hours for freeze damage to become apparent, Paul Baker, executive director of the New York State Berry Growers Association, said in an interview yesterday. At that time, if the core of exposed buds has turned from green to black, the bud won’t blossom, he said.
“We will start cutting into the buds tomorrow to see if they’re brown,” said Nicholson, the apple grower from the Geneva area.
Brad Rippey, a meteorologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said yesterday that northern crops may escape serious damage because their blossoming is not far enough along to allow for maximum exposure to the cold.
To contact the reporters on this story: Alan Bjerga in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org Jim Efstathiou Jr. in New York at email@example.com;
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at firstname.lastname@example.org