By Lisa Adams
NORTH EAST, Pa. (Erie News Now) – For most of us, the late March snowy cold snap is just an annoyance. But for fruit farmers in our region, it’s a big concern.
The weather has farmers worried about the buds on their fruit trees and the future of this year’s crops.
After warm temperatures in the 60’s and up to 70 degrees in the month of March the buds have already pushed out on stone fruit trees such as peaches, plums and cherries.
Buds on the area’s apple trees have not pushed out quite as much, but according to longtime fruit farmer Tim Burch in North East, they are at risk from the frosty temperatures too. “The buds at the current time have not had time to basically we say — dehydrate from the warmth and the growth they had and this cold has just come on very quickly and at the present time as a tree fruit farmer I’m very nervous on what’s ahead of us for this year,” he said.
With 8 acres of peach trees and 36 acres of apples, Burch says the weekend snow isn’t his biggest worry. He’s concerned that temperatures may drop into the teens for the second night in a row. “I was hoping they would be able to handle 22-23 degrees but here we are in the teens so at this point in time we’re very nervous, we don’t know the outcome yet, it’s going to have to warm up and then we can cut some buds and analyze if there’s any damage to the flowering parts of the fruit bud.”
Burch said the buds on his apple trees have not pushed out as much, so he is more optimistic for those trees, as well as for his grape crop even though there is evidence that the sap has started flowing in the vines. “At the present time even the wine grapes, the Concords, the Niagaras and all the other varieties we’re hoping and praying they’re going to be able to handle this unusual cold weather we’re having,” Burch said.
He’s hoping his farm won’t see a repeat of last year’s crop losses to frost in April. “Especially up here on the hillside, up on the escarpment, we ended up losing about 80% of our apple crop and we lost about 65% of our grape crop due to the Spring frost last year.”