close
close
Good news so far for Michigan fruit crops after too-early bloom

Good news so far for Michigan fruit crops after too-early bloom

An early spring may sound like a good thing to you and me. But for a Michigan fruit grower, an early spring is a nightmare. So far, fruit growers’ nightmares aren’t coming true.

An extremely warm February and warmer than normal March caused Michigan fruit buds to develop very early. Early bud development made the Michigan fruit crop vulnerable to frost damage. Fruit bud and flower development was even earlier than the extremely warm spring of 2012.

Nick Schweitzer of Schweitzer Orchards says his family has been growing apples north of Grand Rapids since 1976. Fruit growers prefer a cool spring that delays bud and flower development. If blossoms can be delayed until May, there’s very little chance a hard freeze will wipe out your apple crop.

Schweitzer was very worried when the family’s apple orchards were in full bloom last April. In the growers’ circle, it was thought that there was no way to avoid a frost that would wipe out the crops.

Apple trees at Schweitzer Orchards in Sparta, MI on June 27, 2024

Warm winter weather continued into April with only a few light frosts. Michigan’s fruit crop was saved.

Now, early blossoms are translating into early-maturing fruit crops, and fruit harvests are larger than normal. Amy Irish-Brown, sustainability specialist for Valent USA, estimates Michigan will produce 26 to 28 million bushels of apples this year. This amount is above average, but down from the 30 million bushels harvested in the past two years. Brown says it’s rare for the apple crop to be large three years in a row.

Brown and Schweitzer agree that Michigan apples will be picked 10 to 15 days earlier than usual.

Apple trees at Schweitzer Orchards in Sparta, MI on June 27, 2024

In fact, Brown advises us to start looking for our favorite Michigan fruits now, as most fruit is ripening ahead of schedule. He says peaches are being harvested now. If you typically get your Michigan peaches in late July or early August, you might be better off looking for them now.

Sweet cherry harvesting began in southwest Michigan 10 days early and is already complete. Traverse City area cherries began harvesting this week. Brown says the official estimate for Traverse area cherries is 90 million pounds to be harvested. Last year, 67 million pounds were harvested in northwest Lower Michigan. West-central Michigan will harvest 61 million pounds and southwest Michigan will harvest 18 million pounds. That’s a lot of cherries.

Due to the “unwintery” winter, early spring, and above normal temperatures in June, Michigan’s blueberry crop has begun to be harvested.

Strawberries also ripened very quickly due to the warm spring and the dome of warm air above us right at harvest time in June, according to Irish-Brown.

Apple harvest will begin early at Schweitzer Orchards near Sparta. Brown advises shoppers to look for the label that says “Grown in Michigan.” Brown suggests there are two newer apple varieties that everyone should try. The Ambrosia apple is a yellow apple with a reddish blush. It’s a crisp, sweet apple with a hint of tartness, and should ripen in late September. Evercrisp is an apple variety that’s a cross between a Honeycrisp and a Fuji apple. It’s a very late-ripening apple and keeps well for months in the refrigerator. Look for Evercrisp in stores and farmers markets just before Halloween.

This year, if Mother Nature doesn’t get angry, there will be an abundance of fruit in Michigan. Growers don’t count their harvest until it’s over because severe weather can change the condition of the crop quickly. Schweitzer says fruit growers worry about large hail and strong gusts of storm winds until the harvest is complete.

Apple trees at Schweitzer Orchards in Sparta, MI on June 27, 2024