Just a few weeks ago, Midwesterners were reveling in temperatures way too high for March. Now, chilly spring days have returned, and the cold snap is raising fears for crops around the Great Lakes.
That’s particularly the case in northern Michigan, which is known as Cherryland. Agriculture experts warned during the warm spell that there could be damage in the case of freezing temperatures, and that looks entirely possible.
“Every time we have temperatures in the 20s from here on out, there will be crop damage,” Phil Korson, president of the Cherry Marketing Institute, told the Associated Press.
Korson, whose group is funded by cherry growers, said this year’s tart cherry crop will be in danger throughout this month, when cold nights are usual.
Trees developed blossoms during a weeklong heat wave in mid-March, when temperatures topped 80 degrees five days in a row and remained mostly above 60 at night.
“That stretch was very comparable (to) what we’d normally see in late June,” Scott Rozanski, a forecaster with the National Weather Service office in Gaylord, told the news agency.
But the weather abruptly returned to normal. Temperatures dipped into the 20s the night of March 25, freezing millions of tart cherry buds at their most vulnerable stage of development, when they are filled with moisture.
Interestingly, sweet cherries (the dark ones) were farther along in their development, and aren’t expected to be as affected by this month’s cool temperatures.
Growers in the southwestern part of Michigan, known as the Fruit Belt, are also anxious about the impact of weather on peaches, grapes and blueberries.
There are some methods farmers can use to protect their trees and bushes, since it isn’t unusual to get frost and even snow at this time of the year. One process involves spraying them with water from overhead irrigation systems, allowing a coat of ice to form and protect what’s beneath.
In the meantime, the cherry orchards, so precious to Chekhov, will face down what Mother Nature throws at them this year. No doubt he would agree that the Midwest “is so wide, so beautiful, so full of wonderful places.”