Minnesota Apple Producers Get Creative

Posted on 05/15/2012 at 12:00 AM by Christa Hartsook

Blog article written by Lisa Jore, program manager of The Food Industry Center at the University of Minnesota and AgMRC contributing writer.

In Minnesota, each season’s weather brings different challenges to the growing season. This year was no different. Minnesota’s unseasonably warm March prompted apple blossoms to arrive early, but was then followed by a cold snap in April, with below-freezing temperatures that threatened Minnesota’s apple crop.

In response, Minnesota’s apple producers got creative. More than one Minnesota orchard employed helicopters as a means of preserving their newly bloomed apple blossoms.  Afton Apple Orchard, located east of St. Paul, brought in helicopters on below-freezing nights to keep higher, warmer air circulating around the apple blossoms. Apple fruit flowers begin sustaining damage when temperatures get below 28 degrees. In an interview on Minnesota Public Radio with orchard production manager Michael Fleming, the orchard doesn’t expect all blossoms to survive, but he noted trees on warmer, higher ground should still be productive. Other producers used micronutrient treatments to resist cold temperatures or driving tractors through their orchards to keep the warm air circulating around the blossoms.

University of Minnesota horticultural scientist David Bedford said that while it is still too early to know the full extent of the crop damage, estimates range from 20 to 90 percent loss. Orchards located in the south central part of the state with more matured blossoms may suffer more damage than those that were less mature in the north. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture estimated that damages may vary from orchard to orchard and variety to variety.

Apple Orchard Uses Helicopters to Help Save Crop, Cathy Wurzer, MPR, April 11, 2012.
April Frost Threatens Minnesota Apple Crop, Kim Palmer, StarTribune, April 11, 2012.
Frost Damage to Apple Flowers, University of Minnesota Extension – April 15, 2012.
Minnesota Apple Farmer’s Crop Wiped Out by Frost, Susie Jones, CBS Minnesota, April 13, 2012.
Fruit IPM Update #1, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, May 4, 2012