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Drought continues, could effect cherry trees

Courtney Pedersen

As drought conditions continue across Michigan, farmers are worrying about their crops. That includes some crops that aren’t often thought of, such as hay, and some not overly susceptible to drought, like cherries.

On average, crops need around an inch of water per week to thrive. Yet the Traverse City area… and many other parts of the state, have received much less than that so far in June.


With the continued lack of rain in Northern Michigan, farmers are becoming more and more concerned about their crops.


Wes Parker, a farmer of cherries, corn, small grains and hay in Leelanau County, said that hay is in its peak growing season.


“The hay crop has been severely cut back," Parker said. "The first cut of hay was doing its maximum growth during this period, you know, demanding a lot of water.”


Parker said he hopes for a long, soaking rain soon, because each day it doesn’t rain causes more and more crop damage, which can turn into monetary losses for farmers. 


Nikki Rothwell, fruit educator at the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center, said since older, larger cherry trees have big root systems, they are pretty resilient to the current drought. 



“I'm a little more concerned about our higher density trees, or you know, that have smaller root systems," Rothwell said. "So apples I'm a little bit worried about and I know guys are frantic to get their irrigation on. Sometimes the trees are smaller in size, that means a smaller root system and the roots just can't go out and get water.”


Rothwell said that although cherry trees are not currently a high concern, if there are 10 more rain free days… that may change.


“They could go into drought stress, it might affect the crop in terms of size of the crop, could we ripen it properly if we're under really drought stress?," Rothwell said. "I mean, we could have a droughty condition, but we've had droughty summers before, and they're usually pretty, cherries are pretty resilient. So I’m hoping that we get some rain.”





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