Freeze hits Michigan, New York apples hard
By DAN WHEAT
Michigan may have lost 75 to 90 percent of its 2012 apple crop due to freezes, a Michigan State University Extension tree fruit specialist says.
New York also was hit hard and is "probably in the same boat," said Amy Irish-Brown, MSU Extension tree fruit educator in Grand Rapids.
"From what I know, I think it's quite bad really," said Earl Dittberner, an Ontario, N.Y., grower, when asked about tree fruit damage across the state.
Dittberner, 78, said it's the worst freeze damage he's seen in his life. He said he's lost all his peaches and cherries and very likely all his apples. His 30-plus-acre orchard is four miles from Lake Ontario. Damage in western New York is widespread, he said.
"We had an exceptionally warm March which caused all the problem," he said. "I've never seen apple blossoms with snow on them and a week ago Monday, I did."
Judy Schultz, a partner in Busti Cider Mill & Farm Market in Jamestown, N.Y., said the farm lost a fair amount of vegetables grown under cover. She said suppliers told her 50 to 85 percent of the northwestern New York apple crop is lost.
New York and Michigan experienced unseasonably warm weather in March followed by freezes March 27 and in early April that damaged an estimated 15 to 20 percent of New York's apple crop.
But freezes April 27 and 29 took a much greater toll in both states, said Irish-Brown.
"We still had full crop potential (in Michigan) after the earlier freezes. There was some loss but there were still buds that were healthy and vibrant," Irish-Brown said.
"Now things have flipped over," she said. "Some blocks have no viable buds and some about 25 percent. We will have to wait and see what will set. We will be lucky to have 25 percent of a crop in the state.
"At this point, I'm sticking with 25 percent but we could be lucky to be 10 percent when all is said and done."
A Mother's Day freeze in 2010 claimed half the state's apple crop, leaving about 11 million boxes worth, she said. That had been the worst freeze in some 40 years, she said.
Michigan's juice grapes have been wiped out and tart cherries severely hurt by the freeze, Irish-Brown said. Peaches may be down half and strawberries, raspberries and blueberries appear OK, she said. Michigan grows about 50 percent of the nation's blueberries.
New York and Michigan are Nos. 2 and 3, respectively, behind Washington state in apple production. Washington produces about 130 million boxes of fresh and processed apples annually worth about $1.4 billion, according to the U.S. Apple Association and the National Agricultural Statistics Service. New York is about 30 million boxes at $227 million and Michigan at 26 million boxes at $104 million.