Fruit farmers brace for potential frost damage

Kalamazoo County

RICHLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Fruit farmers are preparing for the potential for frost overnight, which could cause damage to a portion of their crop.

Gull Meadow Farms near Richland has already seen about 20 to 25% of the buds on its apple trees damaged from a frost earlier this month, according to farm manager Justin Wendzel.

“At this point, with the first frost event, we probably wouldn’t have knocked any apples off the trees after what had happened,” Wendzel said. “So everything that we lose, every frost event that we lose really any blossoms on the trees from this point forward will be lost production that we would have liked to have had.”

The farm will be running three fans overnight in an effort to keep temperatures warmer in the orchard. It is not a guarantee, and Wendzel says the fans are not effective when winds are greater than five miles per hour.

“It’s just mixing up that air so it’s bringing some of that warmer air down below. It’s also keeping the air moving, keeping the frost from settling on the trees,” Wendzel said.

Michigan State University extension small fruit educator Mark Longstroth expects most of the damage will be in low lying inland areas not close to Lake Michigan, with a greater risk in southwest Michigan.

“I expect to see some damage to the early blooming fruit crops like cherries and peaches. I don’t expect any damage in blueberries or grapes or strawberries because they’re really not far enough along,” Longstroth said.

Wendzel said he will be up overnight checking on conditions and making sure the fans are working. He is trying to stay optimistic that the temperatures will not be quite as low as expected.

“I think we all kind of fear the worst and hope for the best,” Wendzel said.

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