Monday, May 13, 2013

Fruit Growers Brace for Tonight's Frost

Photo from the New York Apple Association
Some area apple orchards will be trying to protect their fragile fruit tonight as local forecasters are calling for frost.

Mark Fleckenstein of Beak and Skiff in LaFayette said he will be putting out the wind machines and frost pots with burning oil to keep the orchards warm.

"A lot of the apples have been set, but if it gets blow 32 degrees, we can get frost rings on the apples," he said. Frost rings are a scar which makes the apples less appealing to consumers come harvest time.

Statewide, Jim Allen of the New York Apple Association said most varieties have been set, meaning the bees have already pollinated the blossoms. He said areas along Lake Ontario should be protected by the lake's warmer water and other areas should not get cold enough for a full freeze.

He said valley areas, like in LaFayette, would be more in danger of a problem.

"Last week when the temperature hit 80, I was feeling pretty good," Fleckenstein said. "This could be fairly significant."

The National Weather Service is calling for a freeze warning from at 11 p.m. Monday through 8 a.m. Tuesday. Forecasters are calling for temperatures from the upper 20s to lower 30s.

Go to  to read the warning.

Eric Behling, a fruit farmer in Mexico, said there isn't anything he can do for his apples and hopes warmth from Lake Ontario comes his way.

He will put water on his strawberries to keep them at 32 degrees. He said the flower petals already have fallen from his sweet and tart cherry trees and "they might be OK." If anything, he said he might end up with misshapen cherries if it gets too cold.

He has heard temperature forecasts for his area of 29 degrees to 30 degrees.

Phil Wagner grows peaches, tart and sweet cherries and apples just south of Wolcott in Wayne County. He said "little fruitlets" already are sprouting on his cherry and peach trees so they should come through the cold OK.

But his apples are still in bloom so "if it drops below 30, I'll lose some apples," he said.

Fruit growers were hoping for a better year this year after 2012's devastating crop. Warm temperatures in March 2012 brought on fruit buds and then cold temperatures in April killed off a lot of fruit buds, from apples to cherries to peaches.

Wagner said last year, he lost all his cherries and peaches and had only 15 percent of an apple crop. 

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