Our unusually warm spring has led apple trees in the Chippewa Valley to start budding out. So while we may be enjoying the clear skies, it’s setting the stage for some cold nights. That could be bad news for local apple growers.
Thomas Craig Schultz, owner of Bushel and a Peck in Chippewa Falls says he got nervous when the record warm weather brought his trees out of dormancy. "80 degree sessions tend to spur the tree along very quickly in its cycle of growth and as such the more the buds open the more they become vulnerable they are to damage," says Schultz.
The trees up on the hills have started their blooming process and are in the pink stage. "At this stage of growth some of the trees could be damaged if it gets down to 28 degrees by 10 percent," explains Schultz.
Damage could be as high as 90 percent if temperatures dip down to lower than 24 degrees.
Whether you're one of the trees up here on the hill...or down in the valley. The Schultz family was smart and took the advantages of the landscape to plant their trees. That's why this orchard is pretty resilient to frost.
“This has been an apple growing area for generations. One of the major reasons is we have good frost drainage because of the hills and that protects the trees," says Schultz. Cold air is heavier than warm air so the cold air rolls down into the valley on calm nights.
"The buds are exposed that's because we're on the top of the hill, but if you go down in the valley you would see where those trees are still covered up with leaves and are tight. So even though the colder air drifts down into the valley, those trees are better off to handle colder temperatures. “Those will probably survive down to 25 or 24 degrees."
Schultz is concerned, but they have their orchard set up the best they can to battle the cold. There's another benefit to the hills. "It tends to hold water so we have sufficient water. We would like to see more, but right now the trees are doing really well," says Schultz.