Spring frost concerns apple growers in Michigan

(WLNS) – Low temperatures overnight threaten the crop of apples for Michigan growers.

Fans are usually used to cool off, but frost fans do the opposite. They are a growers best tool to keep apples warm.

“We have little bonfires throughout the orchard adding heat that rises up and then is brought back down into the orchard by the frost fan,” Steve Tennes of Country Mill Orchard said.

Tennes was up all night last night setting bonfires and controlling the fan to keep his apples safe as temps dropped as low as 25 degrees.

“You could lose ten percent of the crop at 29 degrees and then at 25 degrees you could have just ten percent of the potential apple blossoms left.”

It’s a tactic officials with the Michigan Apple Association say more than half of the state’s growers use. Others just wait and see what fate holds for their apples.

“We count on our good sight and good luck of mother nature to get us through,” Phillips Orchard and Cider Mill Owner Brian Phillips said.

Phillips says as a grower you have to make tough choices.

“The amount of money you want to spend to try to save a few apples versus just having fewer at the end of the year.”

He says a partial loss of apples from frost is actually something he expects every year.

“If we do lose a few to frost its really not a bad thing because we are going to have to thin some of those apples out anyway.”

Phillips says growers only want one apple per bunch to grow so the trees don’t get weighed down. With the apples that aren’t good enough for picking, they use them for other products.

“We have a good use for them,” Phillips said. “We make cider out of them.”

While both Phillips and Tennes say there doesn’t appear to be major damage, they still have a lot of trees to check before they know the full impact of the late spring frost.

 

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