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First fall frost forecast for this weekend: fertile fields to grow frigid

frost_free_season_card.jpg
U.S. Global Change Research Program
Michigan is forecast to get its first widespread frost of this autumn in the coming weekend -- about a month later than usual.

Michigan’s first widespread frost of this autumn is forecast for the coming weekend -- about a month later than usual, data from the National Weather Service shows.

The warmer fall means a longer growing season for farmers and backyard gardeners, said Mark Longstroth with the Michigan State University Extension. But a shift toward a warmer season also means farmers could need to change what they plant to stay competitive.

Longstroth said farmers trying new crops will have trouble adjusting to a changing climate.

“If you don’t have the experience, you don’t know what the new change is going to bring, and you don’t have the ability to do something when it needs to be done because you never had to do that before,” he said.

Longstroth said Michigan corn, soybeans, cherries and grapes might all need to be grown in new places or with altered methods.

For grape growers, though, the change could bring new opportunities, he said. Warmer autumns could allow them to harvest varieties that have so far been unproductive.

“This late season’s also really good for grape growers,” Longstroth said. “Warm, dry weather without a freeze allows them to mature their grape crop, and so it’s looking like this year’s going to be a really good grape vintage year.”

The average number of frost-free days each year has been increasing in the U.S. for the last 40 years, but Longstroth said it’s too early to tell whether climate change will bring later frosts consistently in Michigan, or just interrupt the regular pattern more often.