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The latest crop report from northwest lower Michigan

James Yarema

Unusually warm temperatures, dry conditions and lack of precipitation are impacting northwest Michigan’s cherry, apple and grape production.

Most of the northern lower peninsula has been under frequent fire warnings, causing producers to run irrigation systems to keep crops hydrated.

But this doesn’t come as a shock.

Tart cherry yields have been down for the past two years. 80% of the country’s tart cherries come from the northwest lower peninsula.

Fruit specialist Nikki Rothwell of Michigan State University Extension says climate change is part of the problem.

"Climate change is that wild card out there that we just don't know. So in the past, we've had these series of warmups  in the spring, and then couple that with frost or freeze events. And so that's the real challenge is just it's hard to predict that climate," said Rothwell.

Rothwell mentioned this year's fluctuation in temperatures is also impacting pollination and may also play a big role in this year’s fruit harvest.

"And so I'm in an orchard right now," Rothwell said on a phone call with WCMU. "We're in apples, this a honey crisp block. And they have bees here and I can tell you right now, I can't see a bee but it's about 57 degrees and cloudy. So they like to work when it's above 60 degrees and they prefer sunny conditions." 

Bees are not the only insect-related issue for producers this season.

It's been reported by several producers across the state that plum curculio, an insect that damages fruit, is back.

"And then I've heard reports of growers up here, especially apricots that are out of the shock, that they're already being stung up. So, I warned our growers today at our breakfast meeting that this pest may be very active, so keep an eye out," said Rothwell.

Rothwell mentioned there’s still time for producers to have positive yields this season as long as weather conditions improve, and bee activity picks up.

Rick joined WCMU as a general assignment reporter in March 2022.