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Orchardists Eye Emerging Buds And Weather

Apple blossoms
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Apple blossoms

April is a month for changes.  As trees bud, the maple season ends, but apple blossoms soon emerge.  It’s a time when orchardists carefully watch the temperatures. If they drop too low while apple trees are budding, it can damage the crop. With the fluctuating temperatures over the past week, some apple growers are concerned that their trees are at risk, while others say it’s too early to wave warning flags.
If an apple bud does not complete its growth cycle there will be no apple.  Some orchardists in the region are worried that temperatures dipping under 12 degrees have the potential to damage some buds.  

But how susceptible to damage depends on where the orchard is and the extent of budding.  An orchardist in the North Country explained that he doesn’t expect any problems because the trees here are not as far along as those in other areas.  He declined to be recorded, noting that the statewide organization is advising growers to stop prognosticating about the future crop when buds have barely emerged.
“The status really is kind of normal. We’re in the development that we would want to be at this time of the year. And we have no idea what the weather conditions at this point might be causing us.”
New York Apple Association President James Allen:  “At this point in time it’s way too early to make any determination about crop size.  We have a long way to go between now and harvest.  We can’t make any determinations.  I like to always go back to the old Yiddish thing that says ‘God willing and weather permitting we’ll have a crop of fruit.’  And that’s right where we are now.”  

Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Regional Apple Specialist also told WAMC that it’s too early to pronounce any damage to trees and even if the buds were affected it would take at least two weeks to ascertain the extent of harm.  

Meanwhile in Vermont Hackett’s Orchards owner Ron Hackett says he’s seen no damage, but the trees are only at the silver tip stage.   “As the buds progress in the spring from being full dormant to bloom there’s about five stages.  And as they go through these stages they’re more susceptible to cold weather. And at silver tip there’d be slight damage at 12 degrees.  When they get to be bloom time anything below 28 degrees will damage them. If they were more advanced than they are, we no doubt would have seen some damage.”

Hackett says he has heard rumblings of concern from orchardists further south, but he says the season is starting on a normal schedule and expects the normal bloom in May.  “The trees look good right now.  The buds look good. There’s plenty of buds and they look healthy.  So I would say we’ve got the potential for a decent crop.”

Apple specialists are concerned that if orchardists remain nervous about potential damage to the crop it will negatively affect potential sales.

According to the U.S. Apple Association, New York State is the No. 2 producer of apples in the country.

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