West Michigan tree fruit update – April 17, 2018

Winter is still in place—are we in a mini ice age?

After a slightly colder than normal winter, we are all ready for some warmer weather. Mother Nature has other plans in mind with colder than average weather firmly in place. It is likely to remain this way through the month of April and I keep delaying my predicted first green date due to forecasted temperatures just not reaching the levels the weather people are predicting. Having measurable snow cover will also depress daytime high temperatures.

Degree-day totals for the general west Michigan area are very much behind normal average with many days seeing no additions to the totals due to cold temperatures. The Michigan State University Sparta Enviroweather station has accumulated 65 degree-days base 42, which is 21 days behind the average for Jan. 1 to April 16, and 13 degree-days base 50, which is 30 days behind normal from Jan. 1.

In observing the development of other plant species, here are a few pointers I’ve noticed over the years. As of April 16, I don’t see development in other plants that usually happens well ahead of green tip in apple. For example:

  • Maples usually drop flowers about a week to 10 days ahead of apple green tip. Maples flowers are just beginning to swell in the past week, so they are very much behind too.
  • The grass typically greens up about a week or more first and you can’t even see the grass with all the recent snow.
  • Forsythia needs to look like they are ready to bloom and I haven’t seen any that are even moving.
  • Ornamental crabs usually break bud at least a week before most apples and I just started to notice this in the last day or two on some early developing cultivars.
  • The Amelanchier (Juneberry) shrub in my front yard usually is close to bloom about a week ahead of green tip in Macs, and its buds have only moved slightly.

Again, just speculation based on my experience and observations over the years, but it leads me to believe it will be April 26 or 27 or even later before we see any green in apples in the general Grand Rapids, Michigan, area. The latest first green we have on record is May 1.

Copper sprays are best placed as close to green tip as possible to get the most longevity from this early scab and fire blight management tool. It’s best to be ready for copper in sweet cherry as well. Peach leaf curl sprays could be key this season if we continue to get a slow, cool weather pattern during bud swell, so don’t miss fungicides for this sporadic disease.

I caught one lonely apple scab spore with the rain on April 12, so there will be spores timed with first green for sure this season.

Meeting announcement

The annual Spring Spray Meeting will be held Thursday, April 19, 2018, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Goodfellow Farm as in recent years, 2267 12 Mile Rd, Sparta, MI 49345. Please use the orchard entrance near Laubach Road, west of the house drive. We will meet in the large, white building located behind the houses. This meeting is sponsored by the Michigan State Horticultural Society and Michigan State University Extension. MDARD pesticide recertification credits and CCA credits have been requested.

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