West Michigan farmers deal with freeze damage

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Farmers in western Michigan are scrambling to take care of their crops after temperatures recently dipped below freezing.

Kevin Robson is a horticultural specialist at the Michigan Farm Bureau. He said area farmers are taking preventative measures to save their crops.

“Countless fruit growers have installed front fans, which aid in pulling the warmer air down into the floors of the orchards, keeping temps above freezing,” Robson said. “This spring’s erratic temperatures and abnormally wet weather pattern has had growers on the edge of their seat when it comes to weather.”

Crops susceptible to the cold include cherries, apples, blueberries and beans.

Wendy Warren of Warren Orchards said that the 24-degree-Fahrenheit temperatures Tuesday were cold enough to cause “considerable damage” to cherry trees. Nikki Rothwell, manager of the Northwest Michigan Environmental Research Station, said that researchers will have an estimate by the end of the week of how much damage the cold snap caused cherry trees.

“There’s definitely some damage out there, we just don’t know the extent of it yet,” Warren said.

Another susceptible crop is asparagus. The first three harvests of Fuehring Farms’ roughly 300 acres of asparagus were destroyed by frost Sunday night and Monday morning.

“With the forecasted temperatures, I would guess that we probably won’t be back harvesting until a week from today,” John Bakker, executive director of Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board, said Tuesday. “Mother nature harvested for us this year.”

The asparagus industry markets its crop as a Mother’s Day treat. But with Michigan being the second-largest asparagus producer in the U.S., there won’t be much at stores in time for the holiday.

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