BY JENNIFER HOEGG
Kings County Advertiser/Register
A mild winter and early spring weather have buds bursting much earlier than usual. Early bloomers ran into trouble this month when frost hit low-lying orchards.
Bill Craig, tree fruit specialist with AgraPoint, says lows overnight April 13 and 14 damaged fruit trees in several areas. Temperatures stayed as low as -3.5 for several hours and “most orchards have some damage” - the worst he has seen since 1986.
The extent depends on location and cultivar: crops vary in timing and hardiness, Craig says. Damage is reported in Kingston, Aylesford, Woodville, Grafton and Port Williams.
“Most of the damage has happened in Gravensteins. There is quite a bit in McIntosh, which I was surprised to see, as I consider those hardy; some in Cortland and some in Jona Gold.”
The newer Honeycrisp, a popular export to U.S. markets, is just fine and Scotian Gold’s brand new SweeTango had no damage.
“I haven’t seen any damage in peaches or plums, but I have seen some in cherries. Very little in pears.”
Craig points out the temperatures were normal for April: “what isn’t ordinary is our trees are further along than they should be.” Before mid-month cooler temperatures, trees were three or more weeks ahead. Blossoms are still two weeks ahead of schedule.
“On Thursday and Friday, I drove from one end of the Valley to the other,” Larry Lutz, crop specialist at Scotian Gold said April 26. “In one block in Aylesford, the Macintosh suffered quite a bit, the Cortlands had some, Ida Red had none.”
Don’t panic, Lutz says. As only one to two per cent of blossoms need to set fruit for a good crop, it’s “nowhere near a disaster.” Although he has seen 85 per cent damage in one block, most damage is lighter.
“It may look very bad starting out and still give you a full crop.”
“Some growers will notice a difference,” Craig says. “We won’t know the total impact of that frost until fruit set, sometime in late-May.”