West Michigan growers prepping for large crop

Michigan apple shipper says 2013 crop will be relief after 2012

Sparta, Mich.  Following what seemed like a late spring and colder-than-normal temperatures, Mother Nature did a 180o turn in Michigan during the last two weeks and provided sunshine and temperatures up to 80 degrees F. The result was that Michigan apples began blooming at about the normal date, if not two or three days sooner.

Of course we were all relieved that this spring stayed cold for so long, said Don Armock, president of Riveridge Produce Marketing in Sparta, one of Michigans largest apple shippers. After such an early warm spell in 2012 that caused too-early blooming and then frost-killed blossoms, all the growers we work are super happy that weather pattern didnt repeat in 2013.

In March 2012, West Michigan broke eight all-time high temperature records from March 14-22, with temperatures up to 80 degrees F. While a few warm days in February and March are no big deal, Armock said, the very unusual March 2012 weather was made worse because up until that time the winter had been mild, ice cover on Lake Michigan was minimal, and temperatures didnt drop back into the normal range.

Things were dramatically different in 2013, Armock commented, which has set the wheels in motion for a large, high quality crop.

All of our Riveridge growers are reporting that their apple trees came through winter in excellent condition, Armock said. We had no winter damage to speak of because we didnt have any dramatic temperatures swings, we had great snow cover and we didnt have any stretches of sub-zero weather.

Our growers are reporting that their trees are well-rested, well-hydrated and that vast majority of buds are alive and ready to blossom, he said. With the weather weve had so far in May, were likely to get fruit-set of the king bloom, at least on these early varieties.

The king bloom is the first blossom to open, and it has the genetic potential to produce the largest apples.

While the Grand Rapids urban area experienced severe floods – the area had 10.76 inches, the third-most ever for April  the typical sloping, well-drained soils of West Michigan orchards kept this from being a concern. Groundwaters should be recharged, Armock said.

One other point that may be interesting is the situation with our bees, he said. While people may have heard news stories about the lack of bees nationwide, this scare story has not become reality for us. Most of our beekeepers who use hive-raised bees that they restock every winter from beekeepers in Florida.

Also, at our orchards we are developing a native pollinator program. We will not have a problem getting this crop pollinated, he concluded.

Michigan is the nations third-largest apple producing state, with commercial production concentrated in West Michigan owing to the lake effect weather. Riveridge is a verticall