Apple orchards dealing with fluctuating spring weather

Published: Mar. 26, 2021 at 5:20 PM CDT
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MERRILL, Wis. (WSAW) - Spring temperatures are always welcome, especially in Wisconsin. When the weather heats up too fast, it can be enjoyable, but it can also bring some problems with it. Helene’s Hilltop Orchard in Lincoln County is seeing that first hand. A positive part of warm weather is not having to deal with snow during the pruning season. This year a process that could take up to 10-12 weeks is taking a third of the time.

“We’re able to move much more freely, and this year you’re able to see the whole tree. There have been years where I’m pruning blindly because you can only see half the tree in the snow,” Helene’s owner Olivia Telschow said.

A negative of not having snow is that the ground is not insulated from the fluctuating temperatures. If the weather gets too warm too quickly then the trees could bloom too early and it could ruin the crop. Insects could also get to the trees sooner than expected.

To measure the warmth the trees are taking in the farmers use a measurement called “degree days”. Right now Helene’s has gotten 156 degree days compared to the 89 they had in 2020. Ideally, they would want that number to be lower.

“They’re using weather conditions to help measure the physiological aspect of the tree and the physiological aspect of insects coming in. Much slower is a lot better when you’re looking at March and April,” Telschow said.

Right now trees are staying protected by the use of their “silver tips”. But if the weather keeps fluctuating between warm and cold. The leaves could come out and become damaged.

“Silver tips have a little bit of texture to it that is protecting it from the cold. If I could get three more weeks of silver tips I’ll be happy,” Telschow said.

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