Damaging weather? Belding, Greenville farmers talk crops and warmer winter

By Kelli Ameling • Last Updated 2:06 pm on Monday, February 27, 2012

Co-owner of H&W Farms George Wright examines the buds on the farm’s Macintosh apples. H&W Farms in Belding has a variety of apple and cherry crops. The Macintosh apples have buds that are not quite as hard as co-owner George Wright said they should be. — Daily News/Kelli Ameling

The warmer winter season is a concern for local farmers, but it is what the weather will bring for the rest of winter that will affect crops.

George Wright, co-owner of H&W Farms in Belding, said the warmer-than-usual winter is a concern for his cherry and apple crops.

“It’s been way too mild,” Wright said.

He worries about spring breaking early because there are more chances of frost.

Fruit crops, such as the apple orchard at Klackle Orchards and Pavilion, experiences normal winter temperatures and snow, which has been rare this winter season. — Daily News/Kelli Ameling

May is the ideal time for fruit trees to blossom. The earlier it happens, the longer farmers have to worry about frost damaging and killing the crop.

Wright said he has not yet gone out to see if he has damages to his cherry and apple trees, but the warmer winter has been a concern.

During winter, Wright said there is not much farmers can do to help protect the crops from the weather. However, during the spring things such as frost fans can help protect against frost.

“It also depends on good location,” said Wright.

Michigan farmers are not the only ones concerned about the mild winter. Wright said other states are experiencing the same thing.

Wright is hoping for a cold March with normal temperatures. If that happens, he believes the crops will survive.

Steve Klackle, owner of Klackle Orchards and Pavilion in Greenville, said he has not seen a major effect on his crops from the warmer winter.

“We haven’t been real concerned (so far),” Klackle said, adding that spring frost is something that is on his mind.

“Frost is something all farmers worry about,” he said.

Klackle said Michigan had a decent year for crops last year, so he anticipates crops will be down a little this year. Trends show that fruit crops tend to be down a little after a productive previous year because of stress on the tree.

“We are just taking one week at a time,” Klackle said.

Fred Springborn, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension educator for field crops in Montcalm County, said the warmer winter has not been too damaging yet.

Springborn said local farmers are currently monitoring crops such as alfalfa and wheat.

“The freezing and thawing can cause some damage (to those crops),” Springborn said. “At this point there is not a lot of damage.”

The main focus is going to be what type of weather the winter brings in the near future. Springborn said right now there does not seem to be any major problems.

Soil temperatures haven’t changed much and the soil reflects close to the same temperatures as last year.
Even though this winter’s weather might not be what farmers hoped for, Wright said the nice weather has helped with other things.

“It’s been a great winter to get work done,” he said, adding that because of the warm weather, he has been able to get a lot of pruning done.

To help monitor the fruit crops in the past, Wright said branches can be cut off the trees and placed in water to bloom inside.

It takes a while for them to bloom, Wright said, but that way he is able to see what kind of damage have been done to the tree.

“(Damaging weather) is a concern,” Wright said. “But we can’t change the weather.”

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