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Orchards around Minnesota dealt with stressful weather conditions in 2012

October 8, 2012
By Cindy Votruba , Marshall Independent

A warm March and a late hard frost in April hit apple orchards across the state hard, killing many apple blossoms.

Then there's been the ongoing drought-like conditions that have plagued the state.

There are about 150 apple growers in Minnesota, according to a recent article by Minnesota Public Radio, and in 2010, they produced nearly 16 million pounds of fruit. That could drop by 40 percent this year.

Article Photos

Photo by Cindy Votruba

Trees came alive in March this year at Holmberg Orchard near Vesta, reached full bloom in April and luckily survived a couple of very cold April nights.

Area apple orchards have felt the effects of the weather this season. Sindie Holmberg of Holmberg Orchard near Vesta said the dryness wasn't the only issue affecting the orchard this season.

"We had that unseasonably warm March," Holmberg said. That caused the trees to reach full bloom in April, she said.

Then there were two nights of 17-degree weather while those trees were in full bloom, Holmberg said.

"That made us think we weren't gonna have much of a crop," Holmberg said. Holmberg Orchard, which is in its 25th year, grows several varieties, including Honeycrisp, Regent, Red Baron and Haralson.

"Fortunately we had some things that bloomed later," Holmberg added. "We have a very nice crop. Not a full crop, probably about 40 percent of our crop." Holmberg said they have an ample supply of apples and plan to be open daily through the end of October. Then in November, the Holmberg Orchard will reassess things with the weather and what supplies are left.

It was that same April frost that caused Stonegate Orchard of Slayton to not even open this season. Gail Byers of Stonegate said the trees blossomed early, and there wasn't much of a crop - less than 10 percent.

"They blossomed and they didn't look right," Byers said. Stonegate Orchard grows about a dozen varieties of apples and would've been in its 16th season. "What we had was good; we had a very few."

Byers said they did all the things necessary for the orchard, which included bringing in bees to pollinate.

Holmberg noted that some of the trees were losing their leaves earlier than normal. And the weather has put some stress on the apples, she added.

But the unusual weather didn't affect the taste of the apples, Holmberg said.

"The flavor of the apple has been better than it has been in three years," Holmberg said. "They are unbelievably juicy." She said the pumpkins and squash they also grow were large and flavorful.

Because of that flavor, people are making return trips to the orchard, Holmberg said.

"They're coming back for more, three or four (more times)," Holmberg said.

"I think we'll find out more when we go to grower meetings after the season and fund out why things are more flavorful," Holmberg added.

Holmberg said the orchard still has a good supply of apples.

"We're still picking," Holmberg said.



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