“It definitely was cold enough so that there could be some catastrophic damage to the majority of the apple crop,” said Jake Samascott, whose family grows about 100 acres of apples on their farm south of Albany.
The unseasonably cold air moved into Northeast and mid-Atlantic states this week shortly after a warm spell sped up bud growth on apple trees. Buds become more sensitive to cold as they mature, making the cold snap especially troubling in big apple-producing states such as New York. Farmers are starting to assess the damage this week with another round of plummeting temperatures looming.
Damage still unknown
“We have at least one more cold night by the end of the weekend, early next week, if forecasts hold, to get through,” said Ben Wenk of Three Springs Fruit Farm in Aspers, Pennsylvania, southwest of Harrisburg. “And of course there’s not a whole lot we can do about it.”
Farmers are already checking individual buds for damage but don’t expect to have an estimate of losses until next week at the earliest.
Samascott said his orchard could lose 90 per cent of its apple crop because of temperatures that dipped to 10 degrees and below. Three Springs could lose half its early varieties like Honeycrisp and Gala. Wenk also is worried about his peaches, blueberries and strawberries.
Some apple farmers try to mitigate damage by employing windmill-like machines to direct warmer air at the trees, but they are still left playing a waiting game.
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