TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Michigan’s heavy snowfall and bitter cold winter have damaged some fruit trees and vineyards, according to a leading state farm group.
The late thaw is finally allowing fruit farmers to assess damage from the cold and heavy snow, the Michigan Farm Bureau said in a report.
“There certainly is going to be some bud damage, and potential damage to the wood,” said Ken Nye, a horticulture and forestry specialist with the group.
Michigan is the national center for tart cherry production and also a major producer of apples and sweet cherries.
“Apples probably weren’t affected too much, but we’ll see some damage to cherries, peaches, grapes and blueberries,” Nye said in a statement.
The health of this year’s crop depends in part on how the spring shapes up, he said.
“The best-case scenario now is for us to stay cool as long as possible,” Nye said. “The way we’re set up right now is we might have the kind of spring we can get through without too much frost damage. That will vary by location, but it always does.”
Heavy snowfall has “pros and cons,” the report said. “Deep snow cover is beneficial in that it helps insulate the ground and, come spring, replenishes both ground- and surface-water reserves in desperate need of recharging,” it said. “But the weight of heavy snows is already known to have caused damage in some high-density apple orchards where growers are observing some breakage in lower branches.”
The same thing is true of the near-record ice cover on Lake Michigan, it said.
“By limiting the lake’s normal moderating effect, the iced-up big water meant more temperature extremes along the coast,” the report said. “On the plus side, the ice has helped ensure a slow warm-up as winter transitions into spring.”
Two years ago, the state’s fruit growers sustained a harsh blow when an early warm-up and a late freeze nearly wiped out the tart cherry crop.
“The last thing anyone wants is the kind of haywire spring we had in 2012,” Nye said. “Fruit growers will take a long, slow warm-up over sudden temperature shifts any time. Nobody wants another 2012 — ever.”