2017-03-09 / Front Page

Wind then cold, followed by fruit concerns

Power outages abound
By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff

While high winds have constituted much of the weather story this week in Leelanau County, it’s sudden dropoffs in temperatures that have more potential this time of year to damage cherry and grape crops.

So far, though, growers and agricultural experts say their crops appear safe.

Mercurial spring temperatures are expected to take a nose-dive Friday, which has not gone unnoticed by Greg Williams, who grows cherries and apples near Cedar and Maple City.

The National Weather Service forecast for Leelanau County calls for lows in the teens today, which are expected to remain unchanged becoming the high for Friday.

“I don’t think they’re hurt,” said Williams who has 70 acres of sweet varieties and 140 of tart in Centerville and Cleveland townships. “I think, if there were damage it would have been done last week.”

Erwin “Duke” Elsner, small fruit specialist with the Michigan State University extension agrees.

“It hasn’t been super warm in the past week. If there was damage, it would have been last week,” he said.

Elsner reports a low of 9 degrees at one orchard site. A low of minus 1 was reported Saturday at the National Weather Service cooperative weather station in Maple City.

“It’s not been any colder than it was last week, so I think we’re OK,” Elsner said.

Concern grew last month after a week-long stretch in which high temperatures of 50 degrees or higher were recorded on all but one day.

It was March 2012 when unseasonable highs of 70 or more in early March coaxed fruit trees out of dormancy and led to an extremely early bloom.

The aftermath went down in the books as the year without a cherry harvest.

“The buds are so dormant, it’s hard to tell if there has been any damage,” Elsner said. “But I think we’re OK.”

The status of Leelanau wine grape crop is also unknown. However, Elsner’s pretty confident there hasn’t been any damage.

“I’m not worried and I haven’t gotten any calls from growers concerned about their grapes,” he said. “There’s no panic out there.”

One way to determine whether any damage has occurred is to cut buds from trees, bring them in an put them in water.

“Once them come out you can see if there’s damage,” Williams said. “But we’ve still go a long way to go.

“I’ve lost cherries to frost during the first week of June.”

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