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Michigan apple shipper preparing for large crop

Following what seemed like a late spring and colder-than-normal temperatures, Mother Nature did an about-face in early May and provided sunshine and temperatures up to 80 degrees F. The result was that Michigan apples began blooming at about the normal date, if not two or three days sooner.

"Of course we were all relieved that this spring stayed cold for so long," Don Armock, president of Riveridge Produce Marketing in Sparta, MI, said in a press release. "After such an early warm spell in 2012 that caused too-early blooming, all the growers we work with were super happy that this weather pattern didn't repeat in 2013."

In March 2012, western Michigan broke eight all-time high temperature records from March 14-22, with temperatures up to 80 degrees.

While a few warm days in February and March are not catastrophic, the very unusual March 2012 weather was made worse because up until that time the winter had been mild, ice cover on Lake Michigan was minimal, and temperatures didn't drop back into the normal range, according to Mr. Armock.

Things were dramatically different in 2013, which has set the wheels in motion for a large, high quality crop, he said.

"All of our Riveridge growers are reporting that their apple trees came through winter in excellent condition," Mr. Armock added in the press release. "We had no winter damage to speak of because we didn't have any dramatic temperature swings, we had great snow cover and we didn't have any stretches of sub-zero weather.

"Our growers are reporting that their trees are well-rested, well-hydrated and that vast majority of buds are alive and ready to blossom," he continued. "With the weather we've had this week, we're likely to set king bloom fruit, at least on these early varieties."

While the weather media broadcast photos of big floods in Grand Rapids, the typical sloping, well-drained soils for western Michigan orchards kept this from being a concern. Groundwaters also should be recharged, Mr. Armock said.

"One other point that may be interesting is the situation with our bees," he said. "While people may have heard news stories about the lack of bees nationwide, this scare story has not become reality for us. Most of our beekeepers who use hive-raised bees that they restock every winter from beekeepers in Florida," he added.

"Plus at our orchards we are developing a native pollinator program. We will not have a problem getting this crop pollinated with Mother Nature's cooperation," he concluded.