The tart cherry crop has been virtually wiped out in Michigan, and sweet cherries, apples, pears, juice grapes and other fruits are also seeing severe losses, said farmers and agricultural extension agents last week.
"This is the worst that Michigan has experienced in the past 50 years, at least," said Ken Nye, a commodity specialist for the Michigan Farm Bureau. "I don't know how far you'd have to go back to find something similar."
Two weeks of summerlike temperatures in March caused fruit trees to bud early, and below-freezing temperatures last month killed many of them off. The unusual weather is also discouraging honeybees from pollinating the surviving flower buds.
Michigan produces 75 percent of the nation's tart cherries and 20 percent of its sweet cherries, and ranks third in apple production.
"We've had freezes before, but you'd always have something come through okay," said David Rabe, who grows apples, tart cherries, peaches and asparagus in Oceana County. "This year, just about everything's devastated. Asparagus might be the only crop we can harvest."
Michigan's fruit shortages are expected to boost prices and decrease jobs for farm laborers, said Mark Longstroth, a Michigan State University small fruit educator (John Flesher, AP/Detroit News, May 4). -- LJ
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