Warmer temperatures pose risk to apple farmers, plants

Warmer temperatures pose risk to apple farmers, plants

While many people are enjoying the warmer weather, apple farmers, like Liz Griffith, are waiting to see a cold snap to delay buds from blooming.

“Most years, we would have multiple layers and hand warmers and foot warmers,” said Griffith.

Griffith’s family owns the Door Creek Orchard in Cottage Grove. While it might feel nice to prune apple trees in the sun, the warmer weather poses a risk to the upcoming season.

“It wakes up the trees. The trees are dormant, they get a signal from the temperatures that they are supposed to wake up and flower. If they do that too early, there is a very high chance of it freezing during bloom. And if your flowers freeze off, then you don’t have a crop,” she said.

In 2012, Door Creek Orchard lost 70 percent of its crop because of warmer temperatures.

Griffith said it’s too early to tell how this weather will affect their crop.

Dr. Katrina Carlson, a botany professor at Madison College, said plants need enough colder days where temps are between 32 and 45 degrees to have the best bloom.

“When plants are cold during this chill period, where they are preparing to flower and if they don’t have enough time in this cold period they don’t undergo this vernalization process, so they might not flower or if they do flower, you will see less flowers,” she said.

Even with a few warm days, Carlson said plants should be OK as long as warmer weather does not continue.

“I think with the limited number of warm days we are probably still fine. Unless we see this go on for weeks, there is nothing for us to worry about yet,” she said.

Cold temperatures this week are expected to prevent plants from prematurely blooming. Griffith said during a normal season, crops could hold out until late April or early May before they start seeing their trees bloom.