Unusually Warm Weather Concerns Apple Farmers

Some local farmers said they’re concerned that the unseasonable weather threatens their apple crop — and a favorite pastime for many Wisconsinites.

Temperatures that have hovered near 80 degrees for several days have allowed buds to appear on apple trees in southern Wisconsin orchards, such as Oakwood Fruit Farm near Richland Center.

A frost or freeze would kill the buds, meaning apples wouldn’t grow this season, said Steve Louis, the farm’s owner.

“Anything much below 27 degrees and we could get a complete crop failure,” Louis said. “We’re past the point of concern now.”

The green buds, which appear all over the tree branches, will ultimately blossom and create the potential for five potential apples each, Louis said. But there’s nothing to protect the buds once they pop, as they did with the warm weather this weekend.

“I was born and raised here, and I’ve never seen anything that even comes close to this,” Louis said, adding that the season was weeks — if not months — ahead of schedule.

The unseasonably warm weather has impacted the entire Midwest, putting most apple farmers in the same situation. Some apples would survive a frost, but about 90 percent would be lost, Louis said.

The average overnight low temperature doesn’t reach 32 degrees until the first week in April, although there has never been an April without a frost since record-keeping began, WISC-TV reported.

“Basically, we’ve got to break history,” Louis said. “You can’t change it. but you keep looking at the forecast and as long as it stays warm you can sleep a little easier.”

The weather is especially odd, given that last year’s apple crop ran about 10 days behind schedule, Louis said.