The extent of damage caused by February’s freeze is still being assessed. This year, mild temperatures in January led to early bloom across the state, which was then hit by a widespread freeze in mid-February that burned bloom in low-lying acres. According to Michigan University, freeze damage can take time to determine because not all blooms on a given tree are affected to the same extent, with flowers on the bottom of the tree more vulnerable than those on the top, for example. And just because petals turn brown, that does not mean the blossom’s pistil was killed. (Without a functioning pistil, fertilization cannot take place.)
Many California stone fruit varieties were reportedly spared damage from this freeze, but cherries may see a significant hit to production. For apricots, bloom was already reported as poor in most orchards, hinting at lower production this season vs. last. Apple and blueberry growers are also reporting freeze-burned bloom. Nonpareil almond trees in the San Joaquin Valley were in full bloom when the freeze hit, and growers are anticipating that crop losses from the freeze in such early varieties may be compounded by poor pollination conditions (wind and rain) for other varieties.
An undamaged cherry blossom (left) from an earlier freeze vs. a damaged blossom (right) from the same freeze
Source: Mark Longstroth, MSU Extension
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