SPARTA, Mich. (WOOD) — West Michigan is heading into the fourth night in a row with a freeze warning in effect.

Temperatures have fallen near or below freezing since Monday morning. While many have been forced to bring flowers or other sensitive plants inside, local growers are running into much bigger issues.

“It’s generally just a temperature rollercoaster of fun and anxiety,” said Nick Schweitzer of Schweitzer Orchard. “Generally at 28 degrees is when you start to have some kill off. It happens at 10% per hour.”

While planting and growing hasn’t occurred yet at the orchard, damage to buds now can cause big issues later on. Fully grown fruit may have an odd shape or frost rings.

“If it was 2012 where we had temperatures in the low 20s, then you can cut open a fruitlet and see the stamen is blocked. That’s how you know you have some major issues,” said Schweitzer.

Thus far, the buds seem to have survived the cold nights. Many are showing a red color.

To help prevent damage to buds, Schweitzer Orchard has five fans across their 200 acres. While fans typically help cool the air, these fans help circulate warmer air aloft (temperature inversion) and bring it closer to the crops.

To help prevent damage to buds, Schweitzer Orchard has five fans across their 200 acres. (April 26, 2023)

“MSU has a 20-meter tower which can tell us the temperature at 20 meters, ground level and at 10 meters, so we can see what that temperature difference is and if there’s an inversion,” said Schweitzer. “Normally if you have a good night where there’s some warmer air aloft, it can pull that warm air where you get a temperature increase of 1 to 5 degrees.”

Schweitzer has been losing sleep this week, waking up every hour of the night to check the temperature. While he won’t know if damage has been done to the crop until harvest, he is optimistic that it will be a good crop.