How did Monday's frost affect apple farmers?

7:45 PM, May 13, 2013   |    comments
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  • Phil Schwallier inspects his crops.
    

SPARTA, Mich. (WZZM) -- 2012 was not a good year for Michigan apples; an early spring followed by late frost caused one of the worst crop yields in years. When temperatures dipped below freezing Monday morning, farmers became worried.

With honey bees buzzing all around him, Phil Schwallier inspects his apple orchard. Walking to the first tree you can see thousands of petals. "Obviously these flowers were frozen-- they are tinged. You can see the slight discoloration," explains Schwallier.

Schwallier pulls out his knife and checks the inside. "These flowers are dead," says Schwallier. He does not have the voice of someone who is very upset. "There are about 3,000 buds killed on this tree." That sounds like bad news, but... "I still have 2,000 left and only need 300 to survive."

In other words, the tree is in pretty good shape.

Last year at this time the tree was completely dead because low temperatures killed everything. "I am looking at a nice healthy tree at this point. I am really happy to see green flowers," says Schwallier.

With the coming forecast showing warmer conditions, apple growers don't have to fear frost damage soon, but they are not out of the woods yet according to Amy Irish-Brown of the Michigan State University Extension.

"Apples have 25 known common pests, four or five different diseases, then you got Mother Nature and weather to contend with," says Irish. This means apples growers have cleared one hurdle, but they have many more to jump over.

However, Amy Irish-Brown is predicting a positive outcome. "As long as we get enough rainfall it looks like we are going to get a good apple crop this year."

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