2017-07-20 / Local News

Tart harvest starts as EPA shows up

By Jay Bushen
Of The Enterprise staff

TART CHERRIES are ripe and ready to move in parts of the peninsula. TART CHERRIES are ripe and ready to move in parts of the peninsula. More than four dozen Environmental Protection Agency representatives paid a visit to the peninsula this week.

Federal and regional EPA leadership visited northern Michigan to get a closer look at agricultural concerns like the spotted wing drosophila (SWD) and the lack of young farmers in the workforce. The three-day tour, which started in Antrim County on Tuesday, was slated to roll into Suttons Bay yesterday before heading to Williamsburg, Central Lake and Ellsworth today.

Nikki Rothwell, coordinator of the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center, said yesterday’s itinerary included stops at the research station, Bardenhagen Farms, Cherry Bay Orchards and her cidery, Tandem Ciders in Suttons Bay, for a nightcap.

“It’s a reception for 50 of my closest EPA friends,” Rothwell said jokingly.

If the EPA sought a closer look at the Leelanau County cherry industry, it came at a good time.

Growers, who are still in the midst of the sweet cherry harvest, began shaking early tart cherries this week.

“We harvested some stuff at the research center that looks beautiful,” Rothwell said. “If you had the timing right, you’re in good shape.”

SWD numbers are rising, she said, but numbers are still pretty low.

Trap totals in the July 11 FruitNet report show 73 flies were trapped in Bingham Township last week, but that’s largely due to unsprayed fruit at the research station. Only five other flies were trapped in the county, one in East Leland and four in Cedar.

“I’m feeling optimistic right now, but I’m keeping an eye on the numbers,” Rothwell said.

This year, the fruit fly may actually be more of a concern in southwest Michigan orchards, she said.

Mike McManus, who farms 100 acres of tart cherries on North Eagle Highway in East Leland, started shaking tarts on Monday.

“I feel fortunate that the quality looks good,” McManus said. “I have leaves on my trees and don’t have SWD. It’s one day at a time this time of year. Today, I feel fortunate. Last year at this time, we had a hailstorm. I wish all growers the best of luck. They need it.”

In a summer marked by relatively heavy June rainfall, fungicide applications have been paramount. McManus said he’s seen a lot of yellow leaves in orchards across the peninsula, which is an indication of cherry leaf spot.

Rain has also brought brown rot to a number of sweet cherry orchards.

“All growers are stressed this time of year,” he said. “Anything can happen — wind, hail, or more rain. We don’t need more rain right now.”

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