Large apple chill: Freezing click could nip fruit in bud

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Source:   —  April 08, 2016, at 8:11 AM

The unseasonably freezing air moved into Northeast and mid-Atlantic states this week shortly after a warm spell sped up bud growth on apple trees.

Large apple chill: Freezing click could nip fruit in bud

Apple farmers in the E worry the late-season Arctic blast could get a large bite from their budding crops.

"It definitely was freezing sufficient so that there could be some disastrous damage to the majority of the apple crop," said Jake Samascott, whose family grows about one hundred acres of apples on their farm S of Albany.

The unseasonably freezing air moved into Northeast and mid-Atlantic states this week shortly after a warm spell sped up bud growth on apple trees. Buds become more sensitive to freezing as they mature, making the freezing click particularly troubling in huge apple-producing states such as New York. Farmers are starting to evaluate the damage this week with another circular of plummeting temperatures looming.

"We have at minimum one more freezing night by the finish of the weekend, early following week, if forecasts hold, to obtain through," said Ben Wenk of Three Springs Fruit Farm in Aspers, Pennsylvania, southwest of Harrisburg. "And of course there'south not a whole lot we can do about it."

Farmers are already checking individual buds for damage but don't expect to have an estimate of losses until following week at the earliest.

Samascott said his orchard could lose ninety % of its apple crop because of temperatures that dipped to ten degrees and below. Three Springs could lose half its early varieties love Honeycrisp and Gala. Wenk also is worried about his peaches, blueberries and strawberries.

Some apple farmers attempt to mitigate damage by employing windmill-like machines to direct warmer air at the trees, but they're still left playing a waiting game.

"It'south nearly too early to tell, but I still perceive we've a crop," said Dwight Baugher of Baugher'south Orchards & Farm in Westminster, Maryland. He said his apple crop "got smacked beautiful excellent" with overnight temperatures in the mid to low twenty this week.

Damage will vary from farm to farm depending on varieties, how low local temperatures dropped and how distant along the buds were. Losses can even vary around a single farm, with trees in colder valleys affected while trees on a hillside escape harm. Some orchards farther north, love in New York'south Champlain Valley, are expected to escape large-scale damage because of their later growing season.

"Individual farms, some will skate through and they'll be fine and there are others that probably won't have a crop, and economically it'll be beautiful tough," said Jim Eve of Eve Farm Service, who monitors farms in western New York.

At G and south Orchards in the western NY town of Walworth, farmer Stephanie Craft said she's trying to stay positive. Temperatures bottomed out briefly earlier this week at eleventh degrees, but her trees' buds where not as distant along as those across the state in the Hudson Valley.

"I think we're going to — knock on wood — be all right," she said.

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