Blossoms arrive early, farmers fearful of April frost

All eyes are on the short-term weather forecast for local stone fruit farmers thanks to Mother Nature’s unpredictable ways.

In a strange twist that saw this year’s mild winter help create an early explosion of healthy blooms over the past week, forecasted low overnight temperatures over the next two weeks could create a disastrous situation.

“Mother Nature was kind to us up to now,” says Scott MacSween of MacSween Farms in Niagara-on-the-Lake. “I don’t think we got much lower than -12 this winter which is very favourable for our crops. What we don’t want in the next week is cold weather. The buds are starting to bloom. If we freeze when the blooms are out, we can lose the crop. Maybe not all, but a substantial amount.”

Current Weather Network predictions are not currently calling for below freezing temperatures, but with the blooms now out and vulnerable, the predicted low single digit temperatures are a reason for growers to fret. Seeing blooms for stone crops at this time of the year are about 10 days early, says MacSween.

“Right now, we have a full crop and everything looks good. We will be crossing our fingers for the next two weeks.”

MacSween’s 250-acrea farm produces peaches, apricots, cherries, nectarines, and plums.

Earlier this year, Okanagan stone fruit farmers in British Columbia were faced with similar challenges following a frigid January that killed off the spring blooms. Growers there were predicting that the result would mean a loss of up to 90 per cent of their crop.

The Okanagan and the Niagara Region share similar temperate climates, which are ideal for the growing of stone fruit crops, and many other variety of fruit cops.

Richard Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report