Michigan Apple Orchards Blossom After A Devastating Year

Last year, almost the entire Michigan apple crop was lost due to 80 degree days in March and then some freezing April nights. This year, the apples are back, but everything always depends on the weather. The state was under a freeze warning Sunday night — a scary prospect if you're an apple grower and your trees have just come into bloom.

Tim Boles and his agribusiness colleague Case DeYoung were driving to work one morning in late April 2012 after a killing frost had hit the apple orchards in The Ridge, a region of ridges and rolling valleys in west-central of the state close to Lake Michigan. They stopped at a high point and knew things were bad when they saw the helicopters hovering, hoping to push down a warmer layer of air.

"Some of the farmers from the area had gone down south and brought back smudge pots to generate some warm air and smoke to try and help warm the trees," Boles says. "So you had the sound of the helicopters — thump, thump, thump — and the smoke and the rising sun and Case and I both remarked that it was like Apocalypse Now."

Suanne Shoemaker and her family's farm on Six Mile Road could only harvest one percent of their thirty acres of apples in 2012. But this year, "It looks great," Shoemaker says. "We're all excited, all the growers are. Everybody's happy around here this year."

Every Wednesday morning during apple season, growers show up at a local restaurant at 7:00 am for a free breakfast (paid for by one of the farm chemical companies) and a briefing from Amy Irish-Brown, an extension educator from Michigan State University. She talks about spores, beetles, aphids and especially the weather.

"It's surprising how dry it is and that's partly because we haven't had any rain, but also because relative humidity has been extremely low. That's what's drying things out fairly quickly," she says. She wants the growers to keep this in mind as they're planting new trees. And she leaves them with a caution about the freeze coming on the night of Mother's Day.

As it turned out, there was frost on The Ridge — just at full bloom time. But, in an email, Irish-Brown says, "We should be okay. Perhaps a little damage but still have the potential for a full apple crop."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Tabasco And Beer-Flavored: Not Your Easter Bunny's Jelly Beans

On the eve of Easter and National Jelly Bean Day, let us probe the mysterious origins and unexpected ascendency of the humble candy. And to celebrate, we've sampled Jelly Belly's newest flavors.
NPR

Tabasco And Beer-Flavored: Not Your Easter Bunny's Jelly Beans

On the eve of Easter and National Jelly Bean Day, let us probe the mysterious origins and unexpected ascendency of the humble candy. And to celebrate, we've sampled Jelly Belly's newest flavors.
NPR

Obama's Favorite County — At Least When It Comes To Giving Speeches

The president has visited Prince George's County, Md., four times this year. It is the most affluent county with an African-American majority. It also happens to be very close to the White House.
NPR

Ohio's Law Against Political Lying Heads To Supreme Court

Can a state law prevent political campaigns from doling out misinformation? Guest host Celeste Headlee learns more from The Plain Dealer's Sabrina Eaton.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.