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Summer temps warm, optimism about fruit crops heats up

Michigan fruit growers have weathered the storm following serious crop losses in 2012 and are expressing optimism about a return to normal production in 2013.

“This year’s tree fruit crop will be abundant,” wrote Terry McLean, who is based at the Michigan State University Extension Service. There should be plenty of apples, pears, peaches, sweet and tart cherries, and plums to go around, unlike last year, despite several freezing events that were recorded this April and May.”

FruitOverviewMichigan’s apple growers are rebounding in 2013 following a year of disastrous losses in 2012. Growers are reporting that their trees are well rested and have an abundance of blossoms and leaves. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)Looking at agriculture across the board, McLean said, “Michigan is second only to California in the diversity of its agricultural products. Although the cooler and wetter weather we have experienced in 2013 has delayed the harvest of early-season crops, there will be plenty of produce at Michigan’s farm stands and farmer’s markets to enjoy. Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, grapes, watermelon, cantaloupe, rhubarb, snap peas, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, green beans, zucchini, summer squashes, sweet corn, leaf and head lettuces, salad greens, radishes, spinach, cucumbers, onions, potatoes and winter squashes are some of the many fruits and veggies that will be available.”

Last year’s rollercoaster weather all but shut down the state’s apple industry.

According to the Michigan Apple Committee, an early heat wave followed by a cold, frost-filled spring in 2012 caused Michigan growers to harvest less than 10 percent of their usual crop, typically 20-23 million bushels. In sharp contrast, the cool spring in 2013 meant apples began to blossom in typical fashion around mid-May.

Diane Smith, the committee’s executive director, honed in on the forecast for this year’s apple crop. “The growers are very optimistic about what they are seeing out in the orchard,” she told The Produce News. “The weather has been great this year compared to last. At this point, growers are thinning and waiting for the June drop. We have had great investments made into the orchards in Michigan and are looking forward to an outstanding crop this year.”

“There is one very positive aspect to no crop in 2012 — apple trees are very healthy and robust coming into the 2013 cropping season,” said Michigan State University Extension Educator Amy Irish-Brown. “This has been easy to see already this spring with an abundance of blossoms in all tree fruits and many more leaves present than normal for this early in the season. This will lead to a potentially outstanding apple crop in the fall. Healthy trees produce the most flavorful, colorful and sweet fruits.”

Smith said the apple industry will not be able to project a crop size until August. An estimate is expected to be issued at the USApple Outlook meeting which will be held Aug. 22-23 in Chicago.

“Our growers, shippers and processors are looking forward to being back in produce departments and on store shelves,” Smith commented. “We have heard from many people who really missed Michigan apples last year, and we are excited to make a strong comeback in the marketplace. Our industry continues to invest in growth and look toward the future. We are recovering from last year’s loss and moving forward.”

Jeff Manning, chief marketing officer for Michigan’s Cherry Marketing Institute, said the situation is also improved for the Michigan tart cherry industry.

“We expect a very strong, healthy tart cherry crop both in Michigan and nationally,” he told The Produce News. “It appears that we were able to maintain demand and expect a positive marketing year. The Cherry Marketing Institute promotion program is more critical than ever.”