County fruit growers still evaluating frost damage

ADDISON COUNTY — Addison County orchardists and fruit growers are assessing the damage to their crops after a cold snap swept through the region last week, but most are saying its too early to know how temperatures that dipped well into the 20s early on May 11 could affect the region’s harvest.
The cold weather was worrisome to fruit growers because frostbitten blossoms could kill the chance of fruit developing later in the season. By and large, though, orchardists in the region were optimistic after last week’s frost.
“I think for the most part we’re OK,” said Bill Suhr, the owner of Champlain Orchards in Shoreham.
Suhr said that warm weather early in the spring meant his apple trees were about two weeks ahead of schedule, and most of his trees were already past full bloom. At that point, the buds are less vulnerable to frost damage.
He also said the frost could have helped with some of the winnowing that needs to take place: Each bud on the tree produces five flowers, and if all five were to grow an apple the fruit would be too small for market.
In Suhr’s case, one “block” of apple trees in a cold pocket was especially hard hit by the low temperatures, which he believes dipped a bit below 25 degrees in parts of his orchard. The late blooming block could experience “significant kill,” Suhr said, but the section of trees only makes up around 3 percent of his total crop.
Apple experts say that apple orchards in full bloom or post bloom can experience up to 90 percent kill rates if temperatures dip to 25 degrees in the spring.
News reports said temperatures fell to as low as 22 degrees in parts of Vermont. According to Andrea Ochs, who runs Crescent Orchard in Orwell with her husband, parts of Addison County seemed to escape some of the worst temperatures in the state.
“I don’t think we got too much damage, but it’s still too soon to know,” Ochs said.
Reporter Kathryn Flagg is at [email protected].

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