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Michigan crops damaged as temperatures plunge below freezing

Last weekend’s morning freeze was worst of its type since one that hit area in May 2002

Uncommon May temperatures could affect Michigan farms, crops
Uncommon May temperatures could affect Michigan farms, crops

CHARLOTTE, Mich. – Fruit growers are assessing the damage on their orchards after temperatures plunged below freezing in south-central and southwest Michigan, threatening tender blooms on apple, peach and other fruit trees.

Last weekend’s morning freeze was the worst of its type since one that hit the area in May 2002, according to the Lansing State Journal. Cold, dry air blowing in from Canada dropped temperatures into the low- to mid-20s for nearly nine hours, according to the Lansing State Journal.

“We won't realize the extent of the damage until maybe next week,” said Audrey Sebolt, a horticultural specialist with the Michigan Farm Bureau. “Statewide, we won't fully know until June, when the fruit is set.”

Mark Longstroth, a fruit educator at Michigan State University, said fruits that bloom early were probably hurt the most.

“Some apple varieties were pretty severely affected, some others not so bad," he said. "The grapes came through it surprisingly well, and we’ve been real surprised how little damage blueberries suffered from the freeze.”

After a disastrous 2012 season, when a series of drops in temperatures devastated the state’s fruit crops causing trees to blossom early, 80% of fruit growers opted for crop insurance. Sebolt noted that though insurance won't totally replace fruit that was lost, it will provide an economic safety net.

“Growers are very resilient," she said. "So if you have a chance, thank a farmer.”