Southern Michigan fruit growers assess freeze’s crop impact

Associated Press

Galien – Southern Michigan fruit growers are scouting their orchards for damage after temperatures fell low enough during this week’s late April freeze to harm tender buds.

Overnight temperatures dropped below freezing Wednesday and Thursday mornings, making for some sleepless nights for Mike Hildebrand, owner of Hildebrand Fruit Farms in Berrien Springs.

His farm used large fans to mix the cold air in an attempt to reduce its damage to budding trees.

Hildebrand said he’s confident his southwest Michigan orchard will have a crop of peaches and apples later this year, but it will take several days to know how the cold impacted the fruit.

Gala apple tree blossoms will produce apples that will be ready for U-Pick in late July into November, along with Fuji and Honeycrisp apple trees.

“I can tell you what the temperature was and how long it was below freezing. I can speculate how much damage there is, but I’d rather wait until I know the facts,” he told WSBT-TV on Thursday.

Agnes Zielbauer, who owns Twin Maple Orchards in Galien with her husband, Joseph, said the coldest temperature they saw was around 29 degrees.

She said her apple trees started blossoming about a month too soon this year, something that also happened last year and which Kercher attributes to poor yield’s many area orchards saw in 2020.

Zielbauer said that once it warms up into the 70s they’ll be closely examining the farm’s fruit trees.

“Sometimes the trees are more hardened off than you think they are,” she told the South Bend Tribune.