The polar vortex that enveloped much of the Midwest early this year has nearly wiped out the peach crop in southwestern Michigan, a popular destination with visitors from Chicago who stop at fruit farms, U-picks and fruit stands there.
And it’s not just peaches, which Michigan is known for. Some of the region’s apricot, plum and apple crops also might be affected after the blast of polar air plummeted temperatures to minus 20 degrees in late January around the state.
Bill Shane, a tree fruit specialist at Michigan State University, says Michigan’s southwestern counties will suffer millions of dollars in losses from damage to fruit crops. The polar vortex also might have shortened the lifespan of trees that were severely damaged, according to Shane.
Bill Teichman recently inspected his peach trees at Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm, a 500-acre orchard in Eau Claire, Michigan, and found deep, vertical cracks in some of their trunks. Others were bleeding sap. Some were hardly able to produce leaves, Teichman said.
He said he doubts that his peach trees will be able to produce fruit at all this year and that he already can tell that several need to be replaced.
He also found that some of his apple varieties aren’t bearing fruit, either. He hopes to help cover his losses through an insurance claim.
His farm is still recovering from a late cold snap in 2012 that killed the farm’s peach trees.
“We’ve lost our peach crop twice in the past seven years,” he said.
Ben Smith, who manages Hinkelman Farms in Benton Harbor, Michigan, said some of the farm’s grape varieties were killed. It could take a couple of years before it can get its grapes back to full production, according to Smith.