Some New York orchards devastated by late frost

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A late frost on May 18 killed blooms in some apple orchards across New York, with some farms reporting a loss of as much as 95% of their crop.

Gregory Peck is an associate professor of horticulture. He says although some orchards saw significant damage from a late spring frost, other orchards were minimally impacted.

Peck says:

“A big part of this story is the various microclimates for growing apples in New York State. It really depended on where the different farms were as to how significant this freeze or frost event was to the loss of crop for 2023.

“Statewide, we’re looking at losses, probably 20% of the total volume of the state, give or take. We’ll see some losses, but there are many farms in New York State that received little to no damage. So statewide, it doesn’t look so bad, but we know there are many individual farms that lost almost everything, which is just devastating.

“Orchards that are closer to large bodies of water, Lake Ontario or the Finger Lakes for example, are protected because the water tends to keep the air temperature cooler which typically makes it so that the trees will bloom a little later when there’s less chance for a spring frost event. Being in a valley also helps. 

“Like a lot of spring-blooming perennial crops, apple trees are always susceptible to frost events during bloom. Growers can do things like choosing different varieties to mitigate loss. Some varieties are programmed to bloom earlier or later, so growers can plant a mix of those varieties so they don’t have a single frost event take out everything. One effect of climate change is that our winters are getting warmer. This means that apple trees are going to bloom earlier in the year making losses from spring frosts more likely in the future.”

Cornell University has dedicated television and audio studios available for media interviews.

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