Growing concerns for apple orchards with unseasonably warm temperatures

UPDATE: (correction) Today’s cold storage technologies allow apples to be stored longer and longer, for consumers to enjoy. There was a misunderstanding in the interview – Michigan apples are not GMO.

(WLNS) – Apple growers are concerned about warmer temperatures earlier on, because of possible early blooming and then freezes over fruit trees.

It happened back in 2012 during a similar stretch of warm temps before spring, when growers lost all of their crops across the state.

Country Mill Orchard in Charlotte is just one of many in Michigan that could lose their crop and business because of the unseasonably warm temperatures this early in the year.

“This is our livelihood for our family,” Country Mill Owner Steve Tennes said.

Tennes has been working with apples since he was a kid. To him, an early spring could mean the beginning of the end for his income.

“If they’re blooming in the middle of April because there was too much warm weather in February and March, then they’re susceptible to 28 degrees Fahrenheit, which is when they can start to kill flower buds, which would prevent fruit from growing on the tree”.

Its a yearly concern for apple growers who produce more than 15 million apples a year on average across the state.

After a complete loss in 2012, growers learned new ways to save themselves by having back ups.

“Technology gets better every year to store these products longer,” Michigan Agritourism Association President Beth Hubbard said.

In fact, Hubbard says some genetically modified apples can last up to a year, meaning next fall apples on the shelves could be 12 months old if need be.

But that’s not ideal, so growers are also using new techniques to prevent the trees from budding.

“Using frost fans and experimenting with misting and some other things that we can do to help lower the risk of a total loss,” Tennes explained.

But even these experiments only go so far.

“Some of the protections that we have will cover a portion of our orchard but it doesn’t cover nearly even half the orchard”.

Even with the safeguards Tennes and other growers have in place, he says the fate of his apples is picked by forces greater than himself.

“God is going to give us what we need this year, he may not give us what we want”.

Growers will know more the closer we get to winter weather on whether these trees are safe, or at risk of a complete loss.

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