DETROIT (AP) — Michigan peach farmers are harvesting a significantly smaller crop than usual this year after an especially severe winter.
The U.S. Agriculture Department forecasts that the state’s crop will be down about 50 percent from last year, the Detroit Free Press reported. Extreme cold wiped out most peach buds in Macomb, Oakland and Lapeer counties, southeast Michigan’s choice peach-producing regions, last winter.
Bob Tritten, a Michigan State University Extension fruit educator, said it’s been decades since the losses were so bad.
“We have about 60 peach growers in southeast Michigan, and there is not one grower with one peach,” he said.
Tritten said the younger peach trees did better, but cold weather killed many of the trees. He said flower buds on the trees, and the trees themselves, typically can’t handle temperatures more than 13 below.
Abby Jacobson, who co-owns Westview Orchards with her sister, said they only saw four peaches out of more than 35 acres of peach trees on their farm.
“Ten to 14 years is the lifespan of peach trees,” Jacobson said. “Our younger blocks of trees, they survived; the block that was 10 years old didn’t.”
Bill Verellen, who owns Verellen Orchards and Cider Mill in Romeo, said most tree fruit crops were also damaged by unusual weather in 2012. But he said this winter was the worst.
“We have about 12 acres of peaches and we completely lost five acres of trees,” Verellen said. “But we have young ones coming on, and we will probably put some new ones in next year.”
The state harvested 41 million pounds of peaches in 2013. The USDA projects Michigan will drop from the fourth to the eighth state in the nation for peach farming this year, with 20 million pounds of the fruit.