Iowa apple growers fear a freeze
While many Midwesterners are enjoying unseasonably warm weather this month, apple growers are trying not to panic.
Fruit trees from Missouri to Michigan are already budding.
In Iowa, this is so early that apple growers worry one freezing-cold spring night in the next few weeks could destroy their crop.
“We’re all saying our prayers more or less, and just hoping to whatever gods that they just spare us from the cold,” said Paul Rasch, who owns Wilson’s Orchard, 80 acres of gently rolling hills on the outskirts of Iowa City.
Rasch is concerned his trees could bloom by this weekend — and fruit blossoms are vulnerable.
“Anything below 29 degrees starts to freeze,” he said. “I would say the chances of getting through this with a full crop are really, really small.”
Paul Domoto, a professor of horticulture and an extension fruit specialist at Iowa State University, said a worst-case scenario would be a really hard freeze that wipes out the whole industry.
“So the farmers have reason to be concerned,” he said.
The good news for farmers: There isn’t supposed to be a hard freeze any time soon – say, the next 10 days.
In fact, Domoto said this week’s predicted showers and storms would be good for the apple trees by cooling them down a bit and pausing their growth.
The bad news for farmers: Iowa can get a night that hits freezing right up until early May.