By Michele F. Mihaljevich
EAST LANSING, Mich. – Some Michigan fruit crops suffered damage after freezing temperatures hit the region earlier this month, according to Michigan State University extension.
Growers in eastern Michigan will see losses in tree fruits, MSU’s Robert Tritten said May 12. Some flower buds were already damaged from cold temperatures April 22. The cold weather had pushed the growing season 7-14 days behind, he said.
Crop loss for tree fruits could be 40-60 percent, Tritten stated. He expects apple flower bud loss of nearly 50 percent. Pears didn’t appear to have any flower bud damage. The cold weather damaged peach flower petals, making it difficult to determine their growth stage, he said. Many flower buds had off-color ovule and Tritten said he hopes that’s not a sign of damage.
Tritten said he saw freeze damage in sweet cherries of 40-60 percent. “Some flower buds are still viable, but the crop potential has diminished greatly,” he explained. “The best description of our east Michigan sweet cherry crop at this time is that we have gone from a great crop of sweets four weeks ago to a good crop of sweet cherries three weeks ago after the April 22 freeze, to a short crop this week after the May 9 freeze.”
In southwestern Michigan, low temperatures ranged from 19 to 27 degrees on May 9. Peaches, nectarines and sweet cherries saw some damage, though the degree of damage varied, MSU said. Apple buds most impacted by the freeze appear to be Gala, Fuji and Jonagold.
The freeze damaged unprotected warm season vegetable transplants and emerged seedlings in southwestern Michigan, said Ron Goldy, of MSU extension. Significant transplant damage was found in low tunnels. Replanting activities began May 11-12. Cooler than normal temperatures continued to delay plant development, he said. Sweet corn appeared to have avoided damage as the growing point on most plantings was still below ground level, Goldy noted.
In the USDA’s Weekly Weather and Crop Bulletin, the agency said a record-setting, late-season cold outbreak threatened a variety of crops from the Midwest into the Northeast, with widespread freezes extending as far south as Kentucky and the middle Atlantic states. “Vulnerable commodities included emerged corn and soybeans, jointing to heading soft red winter wheat and fruit crops such as apples, blueberries, cherries and peaches,” USDA said. “At the height of the cold outbreak on May 9, temperatures as low as 20-25 degrees affected the northern and eastern Corn Belt, with freezes occurring along and northeast of a line from Iowa to Kentucky.”
Farmers in Allen County, Ind., and the surrounding area were spared significant damage because they hadn’t been able to get into fields early, said James Wolff, Purdue University extension county director. “From what I understand, there wasn’t a whole lot of impact in our area. If plants were up, they were small. The corn growing point is below ground and you have to get the ground to freeze to damage it. I don’t think we were at cold temperatures long enough for the ground to freeze.”
Soybeans in the area wouldn’t have sprouted yet, as most farmers just started planting them earlier in the week of the freeze, he said. “I don’t think we got the damage we could have gotten,” Wolff said. “On the whole, we seem to be alright. We do still expect in some low areas, some wet areas, there might be some need for replanting.”
There were reports of plant injury in southern Indiana, where farmers are further along in planting, he said. The wheat crop, already hampered by a cool and damp spring, was probably hurt by the cold temperatures, Wolff added.
Some areas of Ohio had temperatures as low as 26 degrees May 9-10, according to Ohio State University extension. Soil temperatures at the 2-inch depth mark at the university’s agricultural facilities around the state those days ranged from 38 degrees in Wood County to 58 degrees in Clark County.
“The effect on corn and soybeans depends on both temperature, duration of low temperature and growth stage of the plant,” OSU extension said in a newsletter. “Deeper planted seeds may also be more resistant to large temperature swings.”