Fruit growers concerned over pending frost

Posted at: 05/13/2013 4:57 PM
Updated at: 05/13/2013 5:26 PM
By: Ray Levato

If history repeats itself, buying an apple could cost you more again this year. Fruit growers are watching the thermometer and their crops because of a freeze warning in our area. So, what does this mean to farmers and consumers?
Last year in April, News10NBC talked about the back-to-back freezes that devastated orchards from Orleans to Wayne County. Temperatures got down into the low 20's. Old timers say it was the worst freeze along the fruit belt since 1945 and that meant you ended up paying more for local fruit. The problem was unusually warm March weather that forced the buds to open early and then the freeze killed them.
This year, it's a little different. The freezing weather is coming later on the calendar and the trees didn't bloom too early.

But growers like Bill DeFisher in Williamson aren't taking any chances. He's got 250 acres of fruit trees. He was spraying his apple and cherry orchards Monday with a liquid fertilizer that's supposed to help keep the blossoms two-to-four degrees warmer than the air temperature. He doesn't want a repeat of last year.

Bill DeFisher, DeFisher Fruit Farm, said, “I've been here all my life and I've never had a year that bad. We had probably 30-35 percent of an apple crop. Peaches, cherries, pears, prunes, nothing. Zero. But this year, so far, I think everybody is, we're set up for the best crop we've seen in years, on everything. The bloom is full.”

DeFisher says the spraying is expensive, but he can't afford to lose his crop a second year in a row.

DeFisher said, “I mean it's a gamble, but when you've got a crop sitting out there like this, what's another $5,000 or $8,000. You're going to take a chance.”

If the temperature dips into the twenties, DeFisher says he'll know in two or three weeks if the sprayed worked when the fruit begins to show up on the trees.

Last year, with only a 30 or 35% crop, fruit growers' income was down considerably. Some growers used farm credit to get by.