A harsh frost may have spared some Michigan fruit crops, fruit growing areas

Three nights of frost or freezing temperatures affected Michigan’s fruit crops. Experts say overall, Michigan’s fruit harvest may have gone well during the cold snap.

Temperatures on Saturday morning, May 9, fell to low to medium temperatures in the southwest quarter of Lower Michigan, an area of ​​prolific fruit production. At the same time, the fruit growing areas in the northwest of Lower were not so cold with low morning temperatures in the upper 1920s.

Many fruit crops were damaged by the frost last weekend. Fruits from trees such as apples and peaches have been among the hardest hit. Photo by Mike Reinke, MSU Extension.

Two conditions caused varying amounts of damage to Michigan fruit crops. But with combinations of temperature and damage varying across the state, fruit experts believe Michigan will still have an acceptable crop of most fruit.

Mark Longstroth, a berry educator at MSU Extension in southwest Lower Michigan, says damage to fruit trees varies a lot from region to region. Northwestern Lower Michigan fared a bit better than southwestern Lower Michigan because the trees weren’t as advanced in the north and less vulnerable to the cold. In addition, temperatures in northwestern Lower Michigan were a few degrees warmer than those in southwestern Lower.

Longstroth gives us an overview of various fruit crops in Michigan.

He says don’t worry about the juice or the wine grapes. While the vines have suffered 30 to 50 percent damage to the main branches, the grapes will send out a secondary branch and produce grapes. Longstroth also states that Michigan winemakers have learned to leave extra buds when pruning due to this frost reason.

The Michigan apple crop suffered a wide range of damage. Some sites on higher hills were warmer and had more wind, preventing the flowers from freezing heavily. Longstroth says southwest Michigan typically produces 30 million bushels of apples. Frost damage can reduce the total harvest by about six million bushels. Longstroth says crowd-favorite Honeycrisp apples are cold sensitive.

flower damage

Winesap apple with May 9 frost injury to the pistil. Photo of Amy Irish-Brown, MSU Extension.

Blueberries in western Michigan suffered very little damage. Longstroth attributes this to a dry week before the cold. When the temperatures dropped, it wasn’t freezing cold. The wind remained blowing. While temperatures were below freezing, ice did not form on the blueberry blossoms.

The coldest temperature on a Michigan state weather station was 20 degrees at Teapot Dome, halfway between Paw Paw and Lawrence.

The strawberries survived with little damage. Strawberry growers activate irrigation when the temperature drops below freezing. The layer of ice on the plant keeps the buds from getting too cold. Growers irrigated until after sunrise and temperatures exceeded freezing.

Now let’s move on to the two fruits that were most affected by the cold – peaches and cherries.

Longstroth says the fisheries have been hit hard if they were not located in an ideal location for the fisheries. A large site is nestled in the hills very close to Lake Michigan. The lake keeps it warmer and the hills tend to get a bit more breeze.

Bill Shane, senior tree fruit specialist at MSU Extension, says there was a low supply of peach blossoms last year, so blossoms are plentiful this year. The high number of flowers may mean that some Michigan peaches will still be appreciated in late summer.

The Michigan cherry crop suffered two different damages. Longstroth estimates that the cherries in southwest Michigan have been severely damaged due to the late flowering stage. However, the cherry trees in northwestern Lower Michigan weren’t as advanced and probably did well. Heads in Northwest Lower were just starting to swell and were not as exposed to the cold.

Bill Shane also mentions that fruit trees often have so much fruit that a grower has to go through and thin out the crop. Mother Nature has done this for many growers over the past five days.

The result is damage to fruit trees, but a fruit harvest is still expected this summer and fall.

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