East Michigan fruit update – March 31, 2020

Spring growth of fruit crops are right on track compared to normal growth for east Michigan, despite an unusually mild winter.

Weather

Winter was much warmer than normal, and March has seen this trend continue. This may be one of the 10 warmest winters in the time we have been keeping weather records. Except for rainfall over the past week, winter in east Michigan was drier than normal. A few growers had ground that was ready to plant tree and small fruits late last week, but most have seen a good amount of precipitation in the last week and most have not received planting stock from nursery’s yet. Let’s hope we don’t have another really wet spring like 2019.

We did have some very cold temperatures last mid-November that I was concerned might have caused damage to flower buds. These cold temperatures were proceeded by a mild fall, with little cold to help push fruit crops toward deeper hardiness. These cold temperatures occurred on the mornings of Nov. 12 and 13. I have forced some forsythia twigs over the last month to check for damage. Forsythia flower buds are a good indicator of potential fruit flower bud injury. I am glad to report that forsythia flowers seemed to have survived the winter well. I think our fruit flower buds will be in good shape this spring.

In my visits on the phone with fruit growers in the last week, we are starting to see some bud swell in most of our fruit crops. I have seen a few apple varieties at silver tip and raspberries at late bud swell.

Most of our region has soils that are too wet to do any fieldwork, other than the continuation of pruning activities in tree fruits, blueberries and grapes. I have not heard of any tree planting.

East Michigan growing degree day (GDD) totals for March 1-30, 2020

Location

GDD42

GDD45

GDD50

Commerce (Oakland County)

53

29

11

Deerfield (Monroe County)

75

46

20

Emmett (St Clair County)

56

33

13

Flint (Genesee County)

74

44

15

Freeland (Saginaw County)

47

26

 7

Lapeer (Lapeer County)

67

40

16

Pigeon (Huron County)

36

19

 6

Romeo (Macomb County)

62

36

14

Tree fruits

Apples that I was able to observe yesterday, March 30, are mostly at bud swell, with a few early varieties beginning to see silver tip. Most growers have been seeing a good crop of flower buds as they have been pruning. Growers are continuing to prune apples; most have made good progress with little snow to slow pruning and warmer temperatures. I have not been able to set up my apple scab spore trapping equipment yet this spring.

Peach leaf curl sprays are being made.

Sweet cherries are at swollen bud.

Small fruits

Strawberry leaves were just starting to emerge from the crown on early varieties two weeks ago when I was able to visit strawberry growers. Strawberries are still covered with straw mulch.

Grapes are at dormant.

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