Goshen News, Goshen, IN

May 8, 2013

Orchards mixed on 2012’s effect on current crops

By SHERRY VAN ARSDALL
THE GOSHEN NEWS

— GOSHEN — Apple and peach blossoms are just beginning to show their white and pink colors in local orchards, unlike last year when the blossoms came out seven weeks early because of unseasonably warm weather.

“We’re happier this spring than we were last spring,” said Maureen Kercher, co-owner of Kercher’s Sunrise Orchards, 19498 C.R. 38, Goshen.

It’s not all good news however.

“The apples are in bloom but we’ll see a so-so crop this year and we’re not exactly sure why,” Kercher said. “According to the text book, it should be a bumper crop. We’re not sure how much was harmed by the heat and drought last year.”

Kercher explained that each apple bud should have five blooms on it.

“Some have just one bloom,” she said. “It’s kind of spotty. Some fruit have lots of blossoms and some are real spotty. We’re not looking for a bumper crop. Certain varieties seem to be affected, like the red delicious and gold delicious, when others weren’t affected. Probably something happened last year. My husband Tom is puzzled by it and he’s talked to professionals about it.”

Some of the damage could be attributed to the early warm weather in 2012 when it was hot at night as well as during the day.

Kercher said there will be enough apples for Goshen residents this fall and there will be “u-pick” fruit available during the harvest season.

The orchards also grow peaches, which seem to have fared better because it’s a hardier fruit than the apples, Kercher added.

“The peaches look good and we’ll have a good crop of peaches,” Kercher said. “We just have to get through this month yet. We’re always concerned, but this seems more normal this year.”

Looking better

The owner of Stoney Creek Winery in Millersburg doesn’t have concerns about the weather affecting his grape crops.

“We do not raise our own grapes at this time,” said Gary Plank, owner of Stoney Cree Winery. “We purchase all of the fruit and juice that we make into wine.”  

It’s a different story for David Muir, owner of Judson Fruit Farm, 55535 Ind. 15, Bristol.

His orchard of primarily apples, peaches and a few cherries are doing fine.

“Things are going very well,” said Muir. “The weather this year has been far more kind than it was last year. So far we’ve experienced no losses.

That’s a far cry from 2012 when Muir saw 70 percent losses in apples and total losses in peaches and cherries.

“We didn’t make any money last year,” said Muir.

Muir also said he doesn’t believe his orchard is feeling any of the effects from last summer’s hot and dry conditions.

“I would say that right now it looks like its got the potential (to be a bumper crop year),” said Muir.

Pollination is the next question for Muir who said the neighbor whose bees he uses has had some bad luck this year.

While things are going well thus far. Muir remains cautious.

“I would always remind people we’re a long way from having the fruit in the crate.”

Corn a different story

Things aren’t going as well for those farmers who have corn.

According to The Associated Press, the USDA recently estimated that U.S. farmers would plant 97 million acres of corn this year, which would be 100,000 more acres than last year, and that this year’s crop could produce a record harvest if yields are close to the trend line or above. But that’s if farmers can just get the crop planted:

In Indiana, only 8 percent of the crop had been planted as of Sunday.

Given that early May typically is ideal for planting corn, farmers in water-logged areas may have to wait a week or more for their fields to dry enough to be planted.

If the planting gets delayed into June, growers could turn to the shorter-season corn varieties, switch some of the acreage to soybeans or declare the land unplantable and collect the crop insurance for that lost opportunity, said Christopher Hurt, a Purdue University agricultural economist in an interview with the AP.